“A Million Ways to Die in the West”
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material
Playing at: Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)
Looking to follow on the success of “Ted,” and perhaps put to rest the critics of his stint as Oscar host in 2013, “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane returns to the big screen with “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
It’s more of a mixed bag this time, substituting the sweetness that made “Ted” so charming with a more coarse approach that elicits a few laughs but has a lot more misfires.
MacFarlane not only directs, but stars as Albert – a sheepherder who loses his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) after backing out of a gun fight.
At first Albert is distraught over being dumped, but his depression wanes when Anna (Charlize Theron) arrives in town. Anna’s arrival not only sparks a romantic interest, but it also serves as a means to gain courage and confront Louise’s new boyfriend (Neil Patrick Harris).
That courage is put to test when Anna’s husband (Liam Neeson), a notorious gunfighter, arrives in town.
Clearly MacFarlane wants to follow in the footsteps of the gold standard of western comedy “Blazing Saddles,” but “A Million Ways to Die in the West” can’t live up to the Mel Brooks classic.
There are some jokes that are laugh-out-loud funny, but for every one of those moments there are about 10 jokes that fall flat.
Theron shows some really nice comedic ability as Anna, perhaps the high point of the film, while Neeson has fun in his role as the ruthless gunslinger.
MacFarlane is the biggest problem, as he is clearly not ready to be a leading man. MacFarlane’s wise-cracking worked much better when he was the voice of Ted. If you found him annoying when he hosted the Oscars, then you will probably hate him here.
I happen to be a fan of MacFarlane’s humor, but even I concede it just doesn’t work in “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” This is like watching a mediocre episode of “Family Guy” that is four times longer and much cruder.
Also in theaters
For a little more consistent entertainment there is “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (B), the latest in the X-Men franchise that takes the time travel premise to create a clever piece of summer escapism.
This “X-Men” begins in the future with giant robots known as Sentinels on the verge of wiping out all mutants.
To save their species, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) enlists Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to go back to 1973 and stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating a scientist (Peter Dinklage) – the event that set the development of Sentinels into full motion.
Wolverine returns to the past, gaining assistance from a young X (James McAvoy) and a young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to alter time and ultimately change history.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is directed by Bryan Singer, who directed the first two films in the series before moving on to other projects. His return brings a light sense of humor and some well-crafted action sequences that use the time travel element to the fullest advantage possible.
It’s fun to see how Simon Kinberg’s screenplay pokes at history, especially prominent presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, creating an alternate timeline that you would never see on the History Channel.
The cast also gets in on the fun, especially Lawrence and Fassbender.
Forced to pick one film in the series I would still lean toward “X-Men: First Class,” but this “X-Men” entry is not too far behind, one that should please its rabid fan base.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is PG- 13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12, Highland Cinemas in Glasgow, and the Franklin Drive-In.