If there were a high-noon shootout between Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" and Seth MacFarlane's "A Million Ways to Die in the West," it wouldn't even be a contest. Brooks' classic would chase it out of town with a backside full of lead.
Speaking of backsides, the two films do have one thing in common: flatulence jokes. But that's pretty much where the similarities end.
That's not to say there aren't some very humorous segments in "A Million Ways to Die." There are also some inspired cameos. But, overall, it lacks the raw, anarchic spirit that made "Blazing Saddles" so ferociously funny. It substitutes that with a sense of love-story sweetness as well as MacFarlane's "Family Guy"-style one-liners - which, as anyone who saw "Ted" can attest, can be a hit-or-miss.
It's the 19th century and MacFarlane is Albert, a luckless sheep farmer living with his parents in the dusty town of Old Stump in the Arizona Territory. His only friend is the equally hapless Edward (Giovanni Ribisi), a virgin dating the town prostitute, Ruth (Sarah Silverman), who won't be intimate with Edward until he puts a ring on it.
Meanwhile, Albert's girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), has left him for a local Lothario, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), the man with the most upper-lip facial hair for miles who also runs the town's moustachery. Their lives are disrupted when, during a bar brawl, Albert happens to save the life of a beautiful but mysterious woman, Anna (Charlize Theron).
Despite the fact that she's an angel and he's a nebbish, the two hit it off. But she fails to tell him one important fact - she's married to the most feared outlaw in the West, a mean cuss who goes by the name of Clinch (Liam Neeson).
Visually, the film is ravishing - Santa Fe, N.M., and Monument Valley in Utah were its locations - but it just isn't very memorable. It is neither offensive enough to be shocking nor funny enough to compensate for its weaknesses.