People die at the fair. That’s the sad, sobering reality for nebbish sheep farmer Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane), a man out of time in the perilous Old West. There’s outlandish danger lurking around every frontier bend, and the long-running gag of A Million Ways shows us some of the silliest, most grotesque manners in which a cowboy could perish. In case you didn’t know, “decapitated by falling block of ice” is not something you want on your tombstone.
The plot doesn’t pioneer into virgin territory: Albert overcomes a breakup with the help of a mysterious new woman in town (Charlize Theron), who happens to be married to the region’s most notorious bandit (Liam Neeson). There’s the requisite saloon fight, the peyote-induced moment of epiphany with fun-loving Native Americans and, of course, a gun-slinging duel at high noon—three of them, in fact. It’s a full-on MacFarlane production (he cowrote and directed), so the toilet jokes and f-bombs flow as freely as the whiskey.
Despite the constant threat of untimely death, though, the consequences never seem too dire, and MacFarlane’s irreverent humor feels subdued without the jolt of animation that gave his previous big-screen effort, Ted, an extra oomph of shock and awe. Still, the one-liners and sight gags hit more than they miss, and numerous cameos are a delight: Watch for an encounter with an '80s time-travel-movie icon conducting a “weather experiment.”
Follow Michael Chen on Twitter: @mcnugget23