A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014) (R)

This review contains SPOILERS!
"A Million Ways to Die in the West" is Seth MacFarlane's newest venture and his attempt to be witty once more. Ever since "Ted", the man's popularity has been sliding and hosting the Oscars wasn't exactly the icing on his cake (though I still remain a fan of what he did). So with "Million Ways" we have a spoof of the old western movie and MacFarlane on his knees to beg pop culture to embrace him once more.
What is most surprising about the movie is how much of it actually works. I went into the theater with the lowest of low expectations and was pleasantly surprised at points during the movie. This isn't to say that the movie is good, because a scene that leaves Neil Patrick Harris defecating into two men's hats speaks otherwise.
We knew it was going to be bad, we didn't expect the sappy sentimentality or the cutesy-cutesy side of it...after all, it's all about people dying, right?
The movie begins as Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) backs out of a gunfight. His girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) then dumps him and says that "she needs to work on herself". Insert eye-roll here.
It's 1882 on the frontier and sheep farmer Albert couldn't care less about any of it. He thinks that he's growing up in a stupid time with a stupid life.
But that all changes when a girl rides into town.
Anna (Charlize Theron) is a mysterious and very pretty woman who takes an interest in Albert. She decides to comfort him during his rebound time...what Albert doesn't realize is that she is married to an infamous gunslinger, Clinch (Liam Neeson).
Much of the first part of the movie meanders with no real direction. We watch Albert get drunk and try to win Louise back and we see his best friend, Edward (Giovanni Ribisi). Edward is dating Ruth (Sarah Silverman) who is a whore. This couple doesn't want to have sex because they want to get married first, why? Because they're Christian.
You should expect the anti-religious commentary from MacFarlane, it's always bitter and funny. Ruth wears a cross around her neck even when describing the sexual acts she had to perform on many men.
Albert is even more distraught when Louise turns out to be going around with the mustached and richer Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Now enemies, Albert and Foy have lots of posturing in attempts to win over Louise's attention.
This is done through sappy montages where we realize that Albert is falling in love with Anna.
But things turn ugly when Clinch comes back to town.
"Million Ways" is surprisingly short on deaths, considering how morbid its title is. It wants to be both a raunchy comedy and a golden age cinema treat, but somehow the erotic mustache licking and sheep penises keep it from being that. Shocking, isn't it?
MacFarlane is baby faced and enjoyable here and the script is a self-referential great-disaster. It is doubly surprising that in the moments of plot-furthering, the movie is quite compelling.
Yet above all else, the A-list cast (and the cameos that pop up) seem to have had the most fun making the movie. It's a disaster on all counts but somehow death by farting and an ice block rupturing a man's head like a ripe grape becomes funny.
The funniest parts of the movie include MacFarlane's barely veiled views on government and racism as well as a made up Indian language.
"A Million Ways to Die in the West" is really stupid, but it never claimed to be anything else, so isn't it already winning?

Score: ★★½

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