May 29, 2014 1:24 pm

What the critics are saying: ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’

ABOVE: Watch the trailer for A Million Ways to Die in the West.

TORONTO — Fans of Family Guy and the hit comedy Ted have been anticipating the new feature from Seth MacFarlane, A Million Ways to Die in the West.

MacFarlane co-wrote, directed and stars in the western comedy, which also stars Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi and Liam Neeson.

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A Million Ways to Die in the West follows a cowardly farmer (MacFarlane) who falls for the new woman in town (Theron), who happens to be married to a notorious gunslinger (Neeson).

Is the movie good enough to make millions at the box office or will it quickly ride into the sunset? Here’s what some of the critics are saying:

Scott Mendelson of Forbes said A Million Ways to Die in the West is shooting blanks and called it “the most frustrating kind of (somewhat) bad film.”

Mendelson wrote: “If the picture was clearly a passion project, it is also just as clearly from a filmmaker in a place with few people seemingly on hand to rein him in and let him know what ideas are worth keeping and which are worth discarding.

“It’s not as funny as it needs to be either.”

He opined that overall, the film “doesn’t quite work.”

“It’s not a very good movie. And it’s just ambitious enough for that to be genuinely disappointing,” said Mendelson.

READ MORE: What the critics are saying about other recent movies

At TIME, Richard Corliss admitted he is not a fan of MacFarlane.

He called A Million Ways to Die in the West “a sagebrush comedy whose visual grandeur and appealing actors get polluted by some astonishingly lazy writing.”

Corliss wrote: “In a movie with a hundred rude sight gags, the few good ones can be attributed to the stunt team: a huge ice block that drops on a worker and crushes his head; a saloon cowboy who falls over dead, his face colliding with and overturning a tabletop. There’s an indecent laugh with a county-fair Runaway Slave Shooting Gallery — too soon, after 12 Years a Slave? — and an O.K. point-of-view shot of Albert getting urinated on by one of his sheep that would have worked better in 3-D.

“Even by these low standards, though, most of the stabs at humour miss their mark.”

Stephen Holden of The New York Times complained about MacFarlane casting himself in the lead role.

“You wonder if someone else (maybe Jim Carrey) could have given Albert a stronger personality,” he wrote.

Many critics seemed to agree.

At Variety, Scott Foundas wrote: “Nothing in the movie is quite so limiting as the presence of MacFarlane himself in a lead role he proves ill fit to carry. He lumbers through the film spouting dialogue that sounds like an extended stand-up riff about the horrors of the Old West, all delivered with a modern, ironic-hipster smirk.”

Foundas called the movie “a flaccid all-star farce.”

He added: “It feels like MacFarlane fell in love with the idea of doing a comic western and decided he’d worry about the particulars as he went along, resulting in a disjointed series of sketches linked together by lovingly photographed Monument Valley panoramas.”

QMI Agency reviewer Bruce Kirkland echoed the feeling.

“MacFarlane … is weak, and not just because of his character. While he is amusing in recounting the horrors of the Old West — disease, dirt, depravity and death-dealing dangers — he cannot carry this overlong movie and is personally responsible for the long boring bits,” he wrote.

“With nothing blazing on MacFarlane’s saddles. A Million Ways to Die in the West just limps off into the sunset.”

Kirkland complained the movie is “not as funny as MacFarlane seems to think it is and not as funny as it needs to be.”

At Australia’s Herald Sun, Leigh Paatsch called MacFarlane’s screen presence “ungainly” but said the rest of the movie is funny.

“Invariably the best jokes come along just at the point you’re feeling you’ve almost had enough solo Seth MacFarlane to last a lifetime,” Paatsch wrote.

Some scenes, though, could have been left on the editing room floor.

“I’m not sure the world needed two whole minutes of a gastrically panicked Neil Patrick Harris defecating in hats. More worryingly, there are some offensive japes at the expense of women and ethnic minorities that should never have made the final cut.”

John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter also mentioned the editing.

“Though the film is hardly laugh-free, its uneven jokes appear to have breezed through a very forgiving editing process,” he wrote.

“The leave-it-all-in approach leads to a nearly two-hour running time that looks all the more indulgent given how much invention Blazing Saddles packed into an hour-and-a-half.”

ELLE reviewer Maybelle Morgan was more kind.

“We expected good things from A Million Ways to Die in the West. And good things we got,” she declared.

“Supplying endless laughs in a very slapstick sense (there’s a whole song dedicated to moustaches, as well as a load of sheep-related humour), the film has you half-giggling half-grimacing throughout.”

But it was Jim Vejvoda of IGN who expressed what many people are likely thinking.

“If you’ve seen the trailers … then you’ve essentially seen the movie,” he opined. “All the biggest laughs, gags, and one-liners are contained within those promos.”

Vejvoda said MacFarlane’s fans may be satisfied, “but everyone else — particularly those who may only see the film because it’s ‘from the guy who brought you Ted’ — will likely find A Million Ways to Die in the West one of this summer’s big disappointments.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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