Hidden inside a slightly-stoned bear, Seth MacFarlane is a very funny guy. But on a big stage as himself (The Academy Awards) or on a big screen as a cowardly cowboy (this movie), he’s not so much. His jokes quickly wear thin; his personality is bland; he seems to be the guy at the party you eventually walk away from because he’s trying too hard to take over the room, he’s pretending to be outrageous to gain attention. This is his movie. He produced it, directed it, wrote it, stars in it; and he made two crucial mistakes: he tried to do too many jobs and had no one to rein him in; and he cast himself in the lead role. He looks fresh-faced and eager, ready to do whatever it takes, but what it takes is more on-screen talent than he has; he’s not ready for the major role.
The movie isn’t funny because he isn’t. It’s too long, too talky, sometimes desperate to fill gaps with potty humor – literally. It goes for extensive stretches with nothing new, interesting, or funny to say: at times it feels like it’s trying to figure out whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama. Instead of reaching for smart ideas, MacFarlane settles for easy raunchy humor and too often goes too far. He’s clearly studied the classic western, “Blazing Saddles” but what he’s learned, he’s applied in ways more cringe-inducing than entertaining. MacFarlane is talented enough to write fresh humor – he proved that in “Ted” – but here he seems to be just wandering from lame joke to lame joke – and letting all of his characters do likewise. Of all the “million ways to die,” perhaps the most ignominious for a performer is to die “by word of mouth” — but I think that’s the way this one will go.