Seth MacFarlane is in pain. The force behind “Family Guy” and “Ted” is screaming throughout his full-blown, big budget feature, “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” Although you don’t actually hear him, he’s crying, “I WANT TO BE A MOVIE STAR!”
Hosting the 2013 Oscar ceremony, MacFarlane wanted to be renowned toastmaster Bob Hope, but he fell flat on his nondescript, smile-button face. In “West,” he wants to be film star Bob Hope in “The Paleface Meets ‘Blazing Saddles.’” But, Hope was charismatic, witty and appealing. MacFarlane has anger that surfaces beneath his nerdish demeanor in the form of mean-spirited racism.
Most glaring in “West” is a shooting gallery, called, “Runaway Slaves.” While watching the game in action, we hear our hero, sheep farmer Albert Stark (MacFarlane), meekly protest, “Shouldn’t those be ducks or rabbits?” See, it’s the redneck gallery operator who’s to blame, not “West” producer-writer-director star MacFarlane. In fact, Jamie Foxx as Django shows up to blow away the bigot and further clear the name of the filmmaker.
“West” is meant to be funny. But, between loads of bathroom humor, things get serious. Co-star Charlize Theron has said that she can’t do comedy. She can’t. As Anna, she provides the love interest to Albert, along with the conflict. Unbeknownst to him, she’s the abused wife of gunslinger/bandit Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), who is allotted one laugh…when a daisy is placed between his naked buttocks (a humiliating way for Neeson to cap a distinguished career).
“West” has one element of comic redemption: Neil Patrick Harris. He plays Foy, the mustachioed lady-killer and stealer of Albert’s first love, Louise (Amanda Seyfried). In fact, if MacFarlane had put his ego on hold, Harris would be the lead and the movie a success.
As it is, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” has found one sure way to die at the box office: Seth MacFarlane, wannabe movie star.