"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane has got to be one of the most frustrating entertainers working in Hollywood today. His projects tend to rely on the shock value of politically incorrect humor while pandering to the lowest common denominator with endless barrages of dick and fart jokes. But at the same time, he manages to slip in enough truly clever material to make it maddeningly obvious that he's a lot smarter than he lets on. It's a modus operandi that smacks of laziness, and his new western-comedy "A Million Ways to Die in the West" does little to break that trend.
MacFarlane writes, directs and stars as Albert, a sweet-natured but spineless sheep farmer who discovers untapped wells of self-confidence and courage through his relationship with new-girl-in-town, Anna (Charlize Theron). Unbeknownst to Albert, Anna is on the run from her infamous outlaw husband, Clinch (Liam Neeson). With supporting roles for Amanda Seyfried as Albert's ex, Neil Patrick Harris as the moustachery proprietor she shacks up with, plus Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi as Albert's best friends, this is too talented a cast for there not to be a few laughs, and there's some good silly fun to be had (particularly during a moustache-centric musical number). However, the tone veers so wildly from scene to scene that the film as a whole winds up being completely forgettable. MacFarlane isn't an unappealing lead, and he has a nice, effortless chemistry with Theron — their scenes together effectively offer a few tantalizing hints at what a smarter, more ambitious script might have given us.