June 2, 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West [2014]

Seth MacFarlane is a divisive pop culture figure — both an undeniable talent and the leading purveyor of fart jokes.

MacFarlane has produced five television series for Fox — one brilliant animated series, two knockoffs of that one, one unwatchable live action sitcom and “Cosmos,” the critically acclaimed space documentary with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

His big band album was nominated for a Grammy. He hosted the Oscars. He directed “Ted” and wrote the lyrics for its best song nominee, “Everybody Needs a Best Friend.”

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” — MacFarlane’s new satire of 1960s Westerns and their macho bullshit — is more ambitious than “Ted” and more coherent than “Family Guy.” It is often hilarious. It mostly works. It is, of course, excessively scatological.

Along with writing (with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild), directing and producing, MacFarlane also stars as cowardly sheep farmer Albert Stark in Arizona in 1882 — “a terrible place in time” — probably because he can’t help himself. He is the bastard son of Mel Brooks (“Blazing Saddles”), making out with Charlize Theron. He is also quite likeable, probably because he looks like grown-up Peter Brady.

There are fart, piss and cum jokes, because, you know, Seth MacFarlane. There is also a carnival game with runaway slaves as the punchline.

In the middle of all of that, there is a dance number and fancy score (by Joel McNeely) that proves MacFarlane is capable of much more.

The fact that MacFarlane talked Theron (laughing at all of his jokes), Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried and Neil Patrick Harris (with graphic diarrhea) into this thing is half the fun. Theron derides Seyfried’s big doe-y eyes, which takes balls, because those peepers are two of the most adorable things in Hollywood.

If it matters, Theron dumps boyfriend Neeson, and Seyfriend dumps boyfriend MacFarlane. Seyfried finds Harris, and MacFarlane finds Theron, which pisses off Neeson.

Wes Studi, long-suffering Native American supporting character of Westerns, provides spiritual guidance and a drug-induced trip to MacFarlance’s character. Neither MacFarlane nor Brooks have given Indians any revenge for their genocide. Neither has Tarantino.

Sarah Silverman (who else) provides vaginal humor. She is a prolific prostitute who has never had sex with boyfriend Giovanni Ribisi. She is no Madeline Kahn.

There are four winning cameos, including one by an Academy Award winner that avenges the earlier goof on slavery. They might be the smartest bits in the movie.

d: Seth MacFarlane | imdb.com | trailer | Sex Night | Dance

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