After the success of Ted, Seth Macfarlane gives himself his first leading-man role in this hilarious but overlong comedy-Western. The film is clearly a passion project, as it reveals MacFarlane's love of the genre with knowing jokes in between the usual gross-out humour. But it also feels stretched rather thin, and would feel even funnier with a zippier pace and tighter story.
In 1882 Arizona almost anything can kill you. Albert (MacFarlane) is a sheep farmer who has very little respect in his tiny frontier town. His girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) has just dumped him and taken up with smug Moustachery manager Foy (Neal Patrick Harris). And his best pal Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) has issues of his own, determined to wait until marriage to have sex with his fiancee, the town's most popular prostitute Ruth (Sarah Silverman). Then a stranger rides in: Anna (Charlize Theron) is trapped in a marriage to the local outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson) and needs a place to hide. And in Albert she finds the kind of nice guy she thought didn't actually exist in the West.
MacFarlane's most clever decision was to surround himself with terrific actors who can effortlessly play both comedy and drama. As a result he just about gets away with a performance that doesn't stretch him at all. Theron is especially good, bringing an offhanded humour to her scenes that grounds the entire film. She may roll her eyes at the bad jokes while laughing openly at the good ones, but she stays firmly in character, which makes her scenes with MacFarlane and Neeson crackle with all kinds of romantic energy.
The rest of the cast adds hilarious asides, including a line-up of amusing big-name cameo surprises and elaborate set-pieces that poke fun at the genre itself (the dual at dawn, the barn-dance, the Indian pow-wow). But the film's main trade is in vulgarity, with a continual stream of comedy centred on excretion, sex and death. Not all of this hits the target, but MacFarlane's average is better than most. So even if he steals several big gags directly from the iconic Blazing Saddles, he's made a movie that's amusing right to the last fart.
Run time: 116 mins
In Theaters: Friday 30th May 2014
Box Office USA: $42.6M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: RGB Media, Bluegrass Films, Fuzzy Door Productions, Media Rights Capital
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 62 Rotten: 126
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Screenwriter: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Starring: Seth MacFarlane as Albert, Charlize Theron as Anna, Liam Neeson as Clinch, Amanda Seyfried as Louise, Neil Patrick Harris as Foy, Giovanni Ribisi as Edward, Sarah Silverman as Ruth, Wes Studi as Cochise, Evan Jones as Lewis, Preston Bailey as Young Albert, Ralph Garman as Dan, Challen Cates as Female Passenger, Dennis Haskins as Montgomery, Rex Linn as Sheriff / Narrator, Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown, Matt Clark as Old Prospector, Gilbert Gottfried as Abraham Lincoln, Ewan McGregor as Cowboy at Fair, Jamie Foxx as Django (uncredited), Christopher Hagen as George Stark
Also starring: Jason Clark