Towards the conclusion of A Million Ways To Die In The West, a Native American tribal chief confides an ancient proverb.
‘Sometimes the only way for a man to find happiness is to take drugs in a group,’ he opines.
The path to happiness certainly doesn’t meander through Seth MacFarlane’s rootin’ tootin’ comedy set in 1882 Arizona, which merrily lassos crudity, toilet humour and hoary stereotypes, and dispatches subtlety to the famous Boot Hill cemetery.
While the writer-director’s debut Ted was potty-mouthed, occasionally mean-spirited yet full of heart, A Million Ways... is potty-mouthed, occasionally mean-spirited and full of farts.
MacFarlane complements his chorus of puerility by spraying and smearing every scene of potentially heartfelt emotion with bodily fluids.
Farmer Albert (MacFarlane) lives on the outskirts of ‘a dirty cesspool of despair’ called Old Stump.
He is at odds with the gun-slinging etiquette of the era and loses his simpering girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) to a moustachioed rival (Neil Patrick Harris) after chickening out of a duel.
A mysterious woman called Anna (Charlize Theron) moseys into town and teaches Albert how to handle a firearm and muster his courage.
Under Anna’s expert tutelage, Albert becomes the man he always wanted to be and he falls in love with his feisty mentor.
Unfortunately, she happens to be the wife of bandit Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), one of the quickest shots in the west.
A Million Ways To Die In The West is joyless.
MacFarlane’s nitwit is unsympathetic while Seyfried’s love interest is poorly sketched so there’s no reason to root for Albert to win her back.
Theron seems to be having a whale of a time in her underwritten role and Leeson chews scenery as the pantomime bad guy.
Fleeting cameos by Ewan McGregor and Ryan Reynolds serve no purpose and a hallucinogenic sequence is equally superfluous, padding out the running time to almost two hours.
Contrary to expectations, MacFarlane’s imagination doesn’t stretch as far as one million demises for the supporting cast. With this picture, he does attempt career suicide though, behind and in front of the camera.