I’ll gladly give Seth MacFarlane props for Family Guy. And Ted was easily one of the funniest films of 2012. Heck, I even found myself laughing more often than not at his misguided stint as host of the 2013 Oscars.

But there’s no way I’m giving him a pass for A Million Ways to Die in the West. If I had my way, he’d be taken out behind the woodshed for this.

To be fair, the movie will do very well with a specific audience– those people who guffaw as characters struggle mightily with explosive diarrhea. But beyond that, I have no idea what MacFarlane was thinking (if at all) when he put this thing together. (MacFarlane not only stars, but also directed, co-wrote, and produced it.)

Set in Arizona in 1882, A Million Ways to Die in the West revolves around Albert Stark (MacFarlane), a loser of a sheep farmer whose girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) breaks up with him to instead shack up with a local fop named Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). At the same time, Anna (Charlize Theron) moseys into town to lay low while her outlaw husband Clinch (Liam Neeson) shakes the local heat. Anna immediately takes to Albert, recognizing his good heart and gentle spirit.

For some reason, that’s a story that takes two hours to tell.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is one of those classic examples of a movie’s trailer showing all the good (or at least halfway-decent) parts. There’s plenty of potential here, but MacFarlane squanders most of it by relying way too heavily on gross-out gags involving all manner of bodily fluids (both human and ovine) and also by hoping that a half-dozen or so hey-isn’t-that…? cameos will make up for all the other transgressions.

If I were to give a generously liberal estimate, I’d say that maybe one in five of MacFarlane’s jokes actually hit their mark; few are memorable, and only a couple made anyone in the theater laugh out loud.

There’s no doubting that MacFarlane does have some smart humor in him, but for some reason he left it back in the big city when he wandered into the desert to make this piece of garbage. It’s hard to come out of A Million Ways to Die in the West without thinking that all he wanted was an excuse to suck face with Charlize Theron.

1/5 stars