There's no stopping Seth MacFarlane. The creator of Family Guy and director of Ted goes center stage for his first starring movie role in the Western farce, A Million Ways to Die in the West.
MacFarlane plays sheep farmer Albert Stark in this thinly disguised homage to Blazing Saddles, set in 1880s Arizona. He's the kind of guy who tries to wisecrack his way out of duel. When his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him for Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), who owns the town's "Moustachery" and sports a devilish handlebar, Albert decides to fight for her affection. Problem is he's a terrible shot. But Anna (Charlize Theron) soon arrives in Old Stump and his fortunes start to change. Who needs Louise when Albert's cavorting around with sexy Anna?
The broadest of comedies, A Million Ways is chock full of raunchy jokes and sight gags, such as when Albert receives a golden shower from his herd or when town prostitute Ruth (Sarah Silverman) explains how her day went to long-suffering boyfriend Edward (Giovani Ribisi). The gag is they're holding off on sex until they get married.
Like in Ted, MacFarlane balances the jokes with rom-com sweetness. He and Theron make an irresistible pair. They both agree that the Wild West sucks, but first Albert has to resolve matters with Foy and, as it turns out, Anna's slick-shooting husband, Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson).
There are several stony scenes in A Million Ways. In one, Anna offers Albert a pot cookie. Where and how she acquires the edible is never explained. In the other, Albert drinks what most likely is peyote tea with Indians at a campfire and literally blasts off on a stupendous, hallucinatory trip. It's by far the highlight of the movie.
MacFarlane fans should like A Million Ways. In fact, one audience member at the screening I attended called it a long episode of Family Guy. Not quite. The landscape photography, shot in Monument Vally in Utah, is routinely staggering, and the song-and-dance routine, "If You've Only Got a Moustache," adds a wonderful dose of camp to the proceedings. MacFarlane may be an acquired taste, but get used to him on the silver screen; he's a force to be reckoned with.
CelebStoner Nugget: Look for Bill Maher in the square-dance scenes. He tells a few jokes.