A Million Ways to Die in the West

I've never been a fan of Westerns; not that I've particularly disliked them, I've just never had a taste for them. But I have always been a fan of Blazing Saddles, and for a while I have been a Seth MacFarlane fan. So when I learned the two would be melding, creating a Western with MacFarlane's comedic sensibility, I was excited.

A Million Ways to Die in the West, set in 1882, is written by the same trio behind the hit Ted: MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. MacFarlane once again directs, and this time he is the star and not just the voice behind the star. He plays Albert Stark, a sheep farmer who is a self-proclaimed nerd. He's your typical Western tough guy, and when he talks his way out of a duel instead of shooting his way out, his girlfriend, Louis (Amanda Seyfried), dumps him in favor of the slick Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Enter Anna (Charlize Theron), who arrives in Old Stump and quickly strikes up a friendship (and maybe more?) with Albert, even teaching him how to shoot a gun. Albert's friends Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and Ruth (Sarah Silverman) are there to cheer him on while Anna's husband, Clinch (Liam Neeson), complicates matters.

(Side note: Ribisi and Silverman are great in supporting roles, sweetly and sincerely playing their running gag: Edward and Ruth are boyfriend and girlfriend; Edward's a virgin because he and Ruth want to wait until marriage, meanwhile Ruth is a prostitute. Just another day at the office.)

The plot meanders here and there, and there's a trippy fantasy sequence (Family Guy fans will be familiar with these types of tangents), but the heart of the story lies in Albert and Anna's relationship, and how Anna helps Albert to see what he's truly worth. Not what you expected from MacFarlane and company? Then you haven't been paying attention. Sure, there are sophomoric double-entendres and poop jokes (all of which I laughed at), as well as some pop culture references that, unfortunately, threaten a short shelf–life, but there is plenty of observational humor, wit and plays on words that all comedy fans will enjoy.

MacFarlane also succeeds because of his stellar cast. Seyfried (Les Miserables) is sweet and coquettish as the object of Albert's affection, and Harris (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, perennial Tony host) is zealous as the smarmy Foy. Neeson is the ultimate tough guy, presenting a great foil for MacFarlane's sheepish (I couldn't resist) Albert. And lest you think Oscar winner Theron (Young Adult) is slumming it in the West, just look at the fun she's having playing tough lady Anna, a strong, confident woman who doesn't suffer fools.

Be on the lookout (including after the end credits) for lots of fun blink–and–you'll–miss–them cameos (and not just from the MacFarlane cavalcade of characters), and tune in for a beautiful, lush score (not just incidental music) that enriches the film, especially throughout the opening credits sequence, which director MacFarlane uses to show off the gorgeous, untouched natural beauty of the West.

(Bonus: Visit Entertainment Weekly to learn more about the hilarious "Mustache Song"!)