Reel Critics: A wild 'West' from MacFarlane

"A Million Ways to Die in the West" is a mixed bag of rapid-fire jokes that obliterate the boundaries of good taste at every level. Seth MacFarlane drops his high-explosive comedy bombs on all the platitudes of life on the Old West frontier. Along the way, he annihilates any concept of political correctness.

Women, religion, minorities and national icons are all targets of his raunchy comedy. The gags alternate being hilarious or just plain silly or miss the mark entirely. But the wild story is significantly enhanced by a great cast. They have a lot of fun pushing the limits of MacFarlane's humor envelope.

Liam Neeson is the nasty gunslinger. Charlize Theron steals the show as his roving wife. She falls for MacFarlane's mild-mannered sheep-herder character. Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi all bring the right amount of caustic satire to their roles.

Be prepared for lots of bathroom jokes, sex nonsense and sudden death played for laughs. The saving grace is just enough sweetness in the toxic comedy to make it palatable to viewers who came for the guilty laughter.

—John Depko


Go to sleep, already

My favorite Disney movie was always the 1959 "Sleeping Beauty" due to the memorably frightful Maleficent, the wicked queen who cursed the infant Princess Aurora. With curved horns, wild eyes and a temper that could transform her into a terrifying dragon, she was evil perfection.

So now Disney gives us "Maleficent" with Angelina Jolie in the title role. How disappointed was I to learn that she wasn't really bad, she was just drawn that way.

She started out innocently enough as a fairy with great dark wings, and struck up a friendship with a human boy named Stefan. Love seemed to blossom over the years until Stefan's ambition cruelly betrayed Maleficent, who then decided to go all medieval on his sorry behind to exact revenge.

Years pass, blah blah blah. Stefan is king and his little girl's fate sealed at the hands of his fearsome ex. The evil one becomes fascinated with Aurora (who grows into a simpering Elle Fanning), and the audience is finally awakened from its slumber.

Jolie does the best she can with a role mostly limited to high-cheekboned sneers and twirling her fabulous robes. Sharlto Copley ("District 9") plays a king as dark and obsessed as his arch enemy.

Disney is obsessed with dizzying effects and has given us a live-action film with one-dimensional people. "Maleficent" tries to be modern by suggesting true love may not really exist. But in the final battle, Jolie magically strips down to a leather catsuit instead of turning into a giant fire-breathing dragon.

Everything new just got older.

—Susanne Perez

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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