Take it or leave it is the general feeling about Seth MacFarlane’s particular brand of humour. Obviously more people have taken it rather than been turned off by it judging by the success of his film Ted and animated television series Family Guy. His is a brand of humour that involves plenty of pop culture references, crude pubescent teenage jokes and crossing boundaries.
Early rumblings about MacFarlane’s follow up film to the hit Ted have not been flattering. This time he also stars in the film he directs and does not just provide the voice for a talking teddy bear. Most of the praise or blame will fall square on his shoulders but due to his previous successes those shoulders are broad ones.
Story goes as such: A mild mannered sheep farmer named Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane – Ted, Movie 43) finds himself in a pinch when he has to go up against Charlie Blanche (Brett Rickaby – Zodiac), a man who he owes money to, in a gunfight. The coward does everything he can to avoid it though in the end he ends up shot in the leg. Now the whole town of Old Stump and worse yet his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried – In Time, Mamma Mia) know how big a chicken he is. The embarrassment leads to Louise breaking things off with Albert despite his pleadings of love for her.
Later that evening in the town saloon along with his friends Ruth (Sarah Silverman – There’s Something About Mary, School of Rock) and Edward (Giovanni Ribisi – Avatar, Saving Private Ryan), Albert complains that there are a million ways to die in the West and it frightens him. A night of drunkenness ensues. The next day doesn’t get any better for Albert as he sees Louise has moved on very quickly with another man named Foy (Neil Patrick Harris – from television’s How I Met Your Mother).
Things start looking up later that night when Albert accidentally saves a newcomer to town named Anna (Charlize Theron – Monster, Prometheus) during a bar fight. After some talk Anna convinces Albert to bring her to the fair to make Louise jealous. After being embarrassed by Foy at a shooting contest and then challenging him to a gunfight the next day, Albert seems sunk. That is until Anna offers to teach him how to shoot. Spending some time together brings the two closer and they even share a kiss.
Anna’s happiness ends when her husband Cinch (Liam Neeson – Taken, Non-Stop) shows up at her door. Albert talks his way out of the gunfight the next day by saying Louise can have Foy as he has moved on. After he leaves and goes to Anna’s he finds her stuff still there but she is gone. He figures out that she is married to Cinch and is another woman who has disappointed him. A bunch of misunderstandings, shootings, Indians, hiding amongst sheep, and Islamic death chants happen in this crazy little town in the West.
An attempt at a satirical western comedy is what Seth MacFarlane had in mind but what he ends up with is a film that is too cheeky for its own good. The way that the man behind the film and in front of the camera sometimes trips himself up is when he allows his ego to get in the way. Meaning that sometimes he is too smart for his own good.
Even though I enjoy MacFarlane’s brand of humour I found my attention wandering about half way through the film. The biggest problem was the script and MacFarlane’s acting. Most of the jokes were weak and fell flat or else were done to death so that they really weren’t not funny the fourth time around. On top of that there was no real coherence to the movie. It seemed just like a whole bunch of skits patched together. Each scene just seemed to exist in order to set up a joke that in the end did not work well. In the end it was almost as if MacFarlane realized it wasn’t working and stooped to a load of bathroom humour or penis jokes. Had he run out of ideas? Then there was the fact that MacFarlane stuck out in a bad way. He seemed awkward and ill-suited to being in front of the camera.
If you are going to the film thinking it is on the same level as Ted then you will be sorely disappointed. Seth MacFarlane has taken a step backwards with his second effort.
-Once Upon a Time, In a Different West