Review: McFarlane's good-natured spoof on Westerns

Posted at 09/04/14 11:49 AM

I have not seen much of "American Dad" or "Family Guy" animated series which he created for television. I also have not seen his first major foray into the silver screen, as the voice of Mark Wahlberg's libidinous teddy bear "Ted." With this his latest project, comic Seth McFarlane makes his debut as a bona fide leading man in a motion picture.

"A Million Ways to Die in the West" is about Albert Stark (McFarlane), a genteel sheep farmer who is not cut out for the rough and violent life in the American West in 1882. After his lady love Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him for a rich mustached salon owner Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), Albert meets and falls in love with the skilled gunslinger Anna (Charlize Theron). Unfortunately, Anna just happens to be the wife of the notorious outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson).

Be forewarned that this film has a tendency to go overboard with the disgusting toilet humor, gory violent humor and gross-out sexual humor, all of which I believe are trademarks of the McFarlane style. Despite its shallow, low-brow, raunchy brand of comedy, I have to say that this film still remains to be really funny in a most charming way. I think it has its talented cast to thank for pulling this feat off.

McFarlane's clean cut looks and awkward charm are perfect for fish-out-of-water Albert. Theron is gorgeous here as Anna, the windswept outdoorsy look becomes her. The two of them had an effective chemistry going for them. Harris is as irritatingly funny as his arrogant mustache. Neeson is so sinister and mean, which makes his scene with a daisy simply hilarious. In addition, there is chameleon-like Giovanni Ribisi and the irrepressible Sarah Silverman gleefully playing the ironic Christian couple -- the shy virgin Edward and the hard-working whore Ruth.

The cinematography capturing the breathtaking vistas of the New Mexico desert was noteworthy in its brilliance. The country-style musical scoring had a sense of humor. That square dance number to the song about mustaches was rollicking fun. The costume designs and production design was meticulous for its period, even though many parts of the script's language was not.

The screenplay had so many potentially offensive references which fly fast and furious in the witty repartee, but the cast's amiability and bright smiles somehow make them forgivable in the name of a good time. Watch out for a couple of unexpected cameo appearances of characters from other films ("Back to the Future" and "Django Unchained") which add to the fun mix. Overall, I had a really chuckling good time with this good-natured satire of the Western genre. 6/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."