A Million Ways to Die in the West never settles into an identity.
On the one hand, filmmaker Seth McFarlane’s comedy might have been a terrific spoof, one that pokes fun at the Wild West’s mystique and the tropes so often employed by the genre’s fiction.
On the other, it might have been a compelling tale centered on two under-achievers unaware of their own worth.
But, perhaps because it hopes to be both, it is good at neither.
Despite a handful of laugh-out-loud funny moments (see Christopher Lloyd’s cameo), it is not silly enough to be an effective spoof.
And courtesy of poorly developed characters, it doesn’t work dramatically, either. Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson) has one trait. Ditto that for Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), Ruth (Sarah Silverman), Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and Louise (Amanda Seyfried, wasted).
Anna (Charlize Theron) and Albert (McFarlane) have, perhaps, two or three traits apiece, but still not enough to feel like vibrant people.
Because all are thinly defined, we do not care about these characters, which means the drama falls flat.
An odd, out of place and lengthy segue into a Native American tribe’s camp doesn’t help either. It is neither funny nor emotionally powerful; it is simply meandering.