Right off the top, let's dispense with comparisons between "A Million Ways to Die in the West" and "Blazing Saddles." They're both comedies set in the Old West, and the similarities basically end there.
Whereas Mel Brooks was able to satirize the Western genre by having it literally crash into modern times and themes, Seth MacFarlane simply lampoons Westerns without really understanding them. Hats and horses aren't enough. That said, a lot of the jokes about the time period are very funny.
But the story in "A Million Ways" could be set in any time period. MacFarlane is a failing sheep farmer who gets dumped by a girl Amanda Seyfried, so he uses another girl to make her jealous and falls for the new girl instead. Can't blame him when the new girl is Charlize Theron. Unfortunately. Theron is already married to a dangerous gunslinger played by Liam Neeson.
The script is by MacFarlane along with Alec Sulkin and Wellesly Wild - the latter two responsible for the FOX sitcom "Dads," which I can now freely admit was awful without getting into trouble since it's canceled and no longer on my network.
The jokes and gags in "A Million Ways" are rapid-fire, and they miss more than they hit. When the jokes do land, it's partly because the cast is so good. Neil Patrick Harris is consistently funny as MacFarlane's moustached competition.
I'm a MacFarlane apologist. I liked him at the Oscars, I think "Ted" was a riot, and I'm a long-standing "Family Guy" enthusiast. He's got an undisciplined sense of humor that I like, but in "A Million Ways to Die in the West," someone should have roped him in.
EPPLER'S RATING: * * 1/2
Out of five stars