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A Million Ways to Die in the West: An unfunny mess

Seth MacFarlane’s new comedy falls flat with its overly-ambitious plot and excessive slapstick violence.

SINGAPORE: US actor-director Seth MacFarlane seems to have bitten off more than he can chew in “A Million Ways to Die in the West”.

MacFarlane attempts to inject his brand of lewd humour into a standard rom-com storyline in "A Million Ways to Die in the West", and repeat the box-office success of his hit film "Ted".

But it doesn't quite work. The film is a confusing mess peppered with unfunny gags.

Set in 1882 Arizona, MacFarlane plays Albert, a cowardly sheep farmer who gets jilted by his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) after he backs out of a gunfight.

He meets Anna, the town's gorgeous new resident, and they hit it off.

Anna sets out to help Albert win back Louise, who has a new love interest - wealthy moustache-ointment shop owner Foy (Neil Patrick Harris).

Albert develops feelings for Anna, and things get complicated when he has to face off with her husband - notorious gunfighter Clinch (Liam Neeson).

MacFarlane’s crass, lewd and politically incorrect brand of humour permeates the movie.

Unfortunately, there are simply too many off-colour gags in the film which bring too few laughs and actually distract viewers from the plot.

For example, a running joke in the film centres on the countless ways one can get killed in the west.

It drives home this point with a generous dose of slapstick violence - too much of it.

At times, the plot seems to be veering towards how easy it is for one to die a grisly death, and away from Albert’s quest to win over Louise.

Also, it seems almost every other joke in the film has got something to do with sex or excrement.

This becomes wearisome after a while.

It was especially painful to watch Foy suffer a violent bout of diarrhoea, followed by a close-up shot of his excrement.

Thankfully, the excellent cast helped make watching the film a less painful affair.

Theron was great as the feisty and charismatic Anna, and made her a genuinely likeable character.

MacFarlane also managed to present Albert as an annoying, but surprisingly endearing character.

While his initial appearance as a cowardly, talentless man is tiresome to watch, his character later grows on the audience as his sentimental side emerges.

In addition, Harris, who is best known for his role in the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother”, gets top marks for playing the witty and eccentric Foy to perfection.

The same cannot be said of Seyfried, who was forgettable as Louise.

Another saving grace is the film's cinematography.

The movie emulates 1880s southwest United States beautifully, from the vast desert landscape right down to little details, like how people in that era didn’t smile while posing for photos.

However, there is only so much a good cast and great cinematography can do for a film.

The excessive amount of off-colour humour in the film is off-putting.

"A Million Ways to Die in the West” will make most viewers cringe, though fans of MacFarlane's humour will probably enjoy it.

2/5 stars. 

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” is now showing.

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