Arizona 1882, and the Wild West was a dangerous place to live, as sheep farmer Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) would tell you, why just today he is due to be in a gunfight duel with a man who is demanding money from him. If Albert cannot shoot straight, he certainly can talk, and when it comes time for him to square up to the gunslinger he instead engages him in conversation, desperately saying the first thing that enters his head to fend off the looming possibilty that the last thing to enter his head will be a bullet. As it turns out, his blethering ensures he lives to fight another day with a reprieve, but there is further humiliation later on when he is with his beloved girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) and she promptly dumps him...
Seth MacFarlane was of course the brains behind a run of animated television shows for grown-ups that traded on near the knuckle humour, but it seemed he was itching to branch out into movies and the result was Ted, where he provided the voice of a hard-living teddy bear. That was a hit, but when it came to roles where we in the audience were actually given the opportunity to see as well as hear him, the consequences were a Western that did middling business and garnered a poor reaction even from those who enjoyed Family Guy and American Dad! on the small screen. The reason for that was not so much having to watch MacFarlane instead of him spending the running time out of vision, however.
The conceit here was that Albert bas basically a man out of time, as the only character who recognises what a horrible place the Old West was with perils at every turn and the population behaving like idiots, much as Woody Allen's nineteen-seventies comic persona would have done, itself taking a cue from Bob Hope's more accomplished vehicles. The trouble was, that fish out of water quality was effective there thanks to the laughs they generated, whereas all this had to offer were a flood of crude gags falling back on sex and shit humour apparently because that was novel in the context of the classic Westerns - you wouldn't get John Wayne talking about whores and diaorrhea, or you wouldn't in one of his movies at any rate, and watching this you'd find out why.
It just wasn't entertaining, not in the manner MacFarlane and his regular writing team presented it for the jokes were just plonked down without wit or flair, depending on their utter lack of finesse to make their impact. What was curious about that was MacFarlane the director managed a highly polished look to his efforts, or at least his cinematographer Michael Barrett did at any rate, which left the quips landing even more brashly with a resounding thud than they would have otherwise. The elephant in the room - or in the wide open spaces - was Blazing Saddles, which had taken much the same approach, Mel Brooks making his film look close to the tradition of Westerns then taking them down a peg or two with crude humour, yet that had a serious point, showing up racism as a farce, and the best this could muster was Albert in dire need of a cappuccino.
He complained so much you began to wonder what the hell he was doing on the plains of Arizona in the first place, and with no answers forthcoming you could not understand why he didn't just move to the city where his airs and graces would be better served. Especially now Louise had left him, though he makes halfhearted efforts to win her back from Neil Patrick Harris as the owner of a moustache grooming emporium, yet when Charlize Theron shows up in town as Anna, a woman who laughs at Albert's terrible jokes, it doesn't take much to work out who he will head off into the sunset with, nor that MacFarlane had a stake in the casting. Here's where the main baddie is introduced, Liam Neeson as Clinch who is actually Anna's outlaw husband and would kill Albert if he knew he was falling in love with his missus, another drawback here in that the script doesn't shake off or shake up the clichés of even non-spoof Westerns. A bit more time concocting jokes with a point going further than "Urgh, I stepped in horseshit!" and this might have been worthwhile. Good moustache song, though. Music by Joel McNeely.