As writer, director, producer and star of A Million Ways to Die in the West
, Seth MacFarlane is all shit, no cattle. Though there is some track record of animators using the drawing board as a springboard to grander ventures, the South Park
creators and Walt Disney knew their limitations. With A Million Ways
, Family Guy
creator MacFarlane has assembled a vanity project on par with Uncle Walt playing lead in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes
. He simply hasn't the chops to carry the movie—a Western in which he’s cast himself as the romantic lead—and only drops the smarmy posturing when diving into boyish flirtation. He’s a continual embarrassment leading a production of this scope, and he’s hardly helped by his own direction. In a tone-deaf flourish of egotism, MacFarlane's sheep farmer is always the smartest guy in the room and, save the women who love him (Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron), the most attractive. More awkwardly, he seems the toughest as well, a significant flaw for a film determined to treat its rejiggered plot with grave seriousness. Thankfully, the Western setting proves as amenable as any other for the hallmarks of MacFarlane's wit—split-second visual bits (unsheared sheep-turned-balls of fluff walking into walls), open-mic routines (have you ever noticed the inherent stupidity of people born to the 19th century?), and troubling stereotypes extended to illogical conclusions. But there aren’t enough jokes, and they require an especially strong stomach, because the feces overflows, and overlong and misguided forays into action and romance sap any anarchic momentum.