A Million Ways To Die In The West - Blu-ray Review

'A feature-length, live-action, cowboy-themed episode of Family Guy, which no doubt sounds like an enticing prospect for some but slow torture for others'.

Somewhere within A Million Ways To Die In The West, there's a reasonably good comedy Western that could have been whittled from the film that writer, director and star Seth MacFarlane presents us with. Probably not a great film, but certainly a good one. The problem is, that isn't the film MacFarlane gives us, instead allowing his ego to run rampant resulting in a ponderous, unfocused mess.

A Million Ways... essentially feels like a feature-length, live-action, cowboy-themed episode of Family Guy, which no doubt sounds like an enticing prospect for some but slow torture for others. MacFarlane plays sheep farmer Albert Stark like a human version of Brian Griffin, which basically means MacFarlane playing himself. Introduced as being "born into the wrong time and place", Albert at times becomes an anachronistic compère to the events of the film, at others an ersatz stand-up comic riffing on the 19th Century goings-on around him. There are moments when this works, but others when it becomes decidedly tiresome to have MacFarlane cocksurely place himself firmly front and centre in his cast above genuine talents such as Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson.

There's a strong sense here - even stronger even than in MacFarlane's foul-mouthed big screen debut Ted - that if the writer and director is ever going to make it in feature films that he's got some considerable growing up to do. A Million Ways... is usually at its best when focused upon historically-themed observational humour - a running joke about 19th Century photography is particularly well-conceived - and there's a fantastic line of cameo appearances throughout (none of which I will ruin here). But for every joke that works there's another that falls flat, along with at least two or three penis or bodily function gags that drag the whole film down considerably.

MacFarlane in the end more often than not becomes his own worst enemy, clearly incapable of editing and refining his own work. This explains the uncut edition's unnecessarily vast running time of two-and-a-quarter hours - even more gratuitous when you consider that the central plot revolves around a fairly insubstantial and predictable period rom-com narrative between Albert and Anna (Theron). It's a shame, as there is evidence scattered throughout A Million Ways... of MacFarlane's obvious love and appreciation for the Golden Age of Hollywood. It's this knowledgeable affection that gives him the potential to one day create a genuinely worthwhile comedy film. But, until MacFarlane can put his ego aside - along with his obsession with crass, puerile humour - it looks like this is the type of cinema we can come to expect from him ad nauseam.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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