Review: ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’ (MA) ***

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THIS is a Seth MacFarlane vanity – writing, directing and playing principal character Albert, farming sheep on hard-scrabble country near a small frontier town where dollar bills are seen as often as Halley’s Comet.

MacFarlane vests Albert’s persona as the epitome of clean-cut American youth. Well, mostly. The characters – the warm-hearted whore Ruth (Sarah Silverman) who takes bookings for selected misbehaviours, and her virgin fiancée Edward (Giovanni Ribisi); Albert’s love the meretricious Louise (Amanda Seyfried) who has dismissed him in favour of the moustache-enhancement products retailer Foy (Neil Patrick Harris); delicious Anna (Charlize Theron) married to all-round nasty gunslinger Clinch (Liam Neeson) but charmed by Albert’s gentleness and suppressed courage – all revel in the freedom to use vocabulary that as recently as not many years ago would have blunted the censor’s scissors! Some may find the many crude moments amusing.

The Western was once a staple Hollywood genre with its own cultural climate and clichés. MacFarlane’s screenplay parodies as many of those as he can fit in. It’s good fun in a cheerfully mindless way. The film’s publicity describes Albert as a coward. Not so. He just doesn’t choose to indulge in fisticuffs. And he’s lucky that delectable Anna is willing to teach him how to use a six-shooter.

At Hoyts; Limelight; Dendy; Palace Electric

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