Be it Adam Sandler or U2, Hipster-ical revisionism affects everyone in show business. And while others have been hit harder (please observe a moment of silence for our fallen comrades, Creed and Dane Cook) Seth MacFarlane has felt more than his fair share. Virtually everyone loved Family Guy in its heyday, but quote it today and see what kind of looks you get. Like the aforementioned victims of H.R., the show struck a tone which was loved to the point of ubiquity, becoming so grating that even the original started to feel like another cheap rip-off. Self parody breeds hatred for the present, breeds eye rolls for the past, breeds denial that it ever had merit. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s lazy.
All that to say, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” probably should have come out ten years ago. It’s a parody which thrives on the same strain of-hit-or-miss non-sequitors which made Family Guy’s tone both iconic and (now) overdone. When the jokes land, they’re very funny — the observations are sharp and the actors just as hammy as they need to be. The other 90% of the time it’s either cringeworthy or flat, with no compelling character- or plot- moments to help us ride out the plateaus. As a jokefest it was OK, as a rom-com it was awful, and as a genre parody it didn’t go deep enough. Like Family Guy, the Western genre is a formulaic institution which is easy to mock from a modern vantage point, but that’s not enough to carry a film. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s lazy.