The difficult second album. Both critics and the public adore you, you’ve made a small fortune, then The Powers That Be want the same again. For every The Bends, Nevermind or Morning Glory there’s Second Coming (The Stone Roses), Room on Fire (The Strokes) and Neither Fish nor Flesh (Terence Trent D’Arby). The same thing has happened to Seth MacFarlane. Cashing in on the hype around Ted, MacFarlane follows up 2012’s ginormous hit with A Million Ways to Die in the West, MacFarlane now writer, star, and director. The bad news first: Laugh-wise, A Million Ways to Die in the West doesn’t get close to the heady heights of Ted or even an average episode of Family Guy. On the plus side, it’s still a lot of fun.
The cast does a solid job. Seth MacFarlane has had plenty of criticism fired his way, which is unfair. While you can’t imagine MacFarlane playing Hamlet, he can deliver a deadpan one-liner and is an expert in comic timing, which is all you could want in a gross-out comedy. Charlize Theron is the star of the show here, making comedy look easy. Whilst watching MacFarlane’s latest, you forget this is the same actress who made her name hidden under heaps of make-up, playing serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Liam Neeson looks like he’s having a great time playing snarling gunman Clinch; he’s the straight guy to MacFarlane and Theron’s pranksters. How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris is scene-chewingly over-the-top as moustachioed toff, Foy, getting many of the film’s big laughs. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman play a Christian couple who refuse to have sex until their wedding night; Silverman is a prostitute who, on a quiet day, will sleep with a dozen men. They’re the same joke repeated over-and-over, but their scenes are always funny.
While A Million Ways to die will have you chuckling throughout, there are very few roar with laughter moments. The moustache song, one of the best cameos in recent years, and MacFarlane going out of his mind on drugs are the only times where you’ll end up red-faced from laughing. There are no scene-after-scene, cry with laughter gags here. Unlike Ted, with its Patrick Stewart narration, Wahlberg reeling off white trash names, or Ted having a house party full of hookers, you’ll be sniggering like a kid at the back of the classroom for most of A Million Ways to Die’s two hours, but that’s about it.
A Million Ways to Die in the West is a decent enough comedy (there are far worse out there gathering dust on the shelves of CEX), and nowhere near as bad as the savage reviews suggest. The thing is, if someone who had never seen Family Guy or Ted gave A Million Ways to Die a go, they would struggle to work out what all the fuss is about with Seth MacFarlane.
3 out of 5