We're the Millers (2013) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity
Running time: 110 min.
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts, Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Quinn, Tomer Sisley, Matthew Willig
Small role: Luis Guzman, Thomas Lennon, Rawson Marshall Thurber
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Screenplay: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, John Morris
Review published August 9, 2013
Jason Sudeikis (Epic, Horrible Bosses) stars as a life-long slacker named David, a two-bit pot dealer who gets into a tangle with a group of nasty thugs that sees his stash of $43,000 worth weed and cash stolen, which doesn't please his odd but dangerous supplier, Brad Gurdlinger (Helms, Jeff Who Lives at Home). Without the funds to pay Brad back, David is coerced into agreeing to make a drug run to and Mexico to bring a "smidge and a half" of a shipment of weed across the border -- a crime that could cost him most of the rest of his life in a Mexican prison if he's caught.
David comes up with an idea that will make him less suspicious to the nosy border guards and any law enforcement he might encounter: he will pose as a milquetoast family man with a wife and kids in a giant RV. Utilizing some of the additional money he is promised by Brad upon completing his mission successfully, David convinces his neighbor Rose (Aniston, Management), who happens to be a stripper by occupation, to pose as his wife, his 18-year-old dorky neighbor Kenny (Poulter, Voyage of the Dawn Treader) to play his son, and a punky homeless runaway named Casey (Roberts, Nancy Drew) to play his daughter. After the "family" goes through a makeover to make themselves look as bland as possible, they head out on their road trip to Mexico, where they encounter such dangerous things as a Mexican cartel, border guards, a DEA agent, and the Mexican police -- pretty much everyone they are seeking to avoid.
We're the Millers is a loose-hanging, raunchy R-rated comedy that pushes the modern notion that the more F-bombs, dick jokes and absurd humor you have in the movie, the more modern audiences just seeking a good laugh will like it. It's definitely targeting the crowd who enjoys such high-concept, low-plot fare as Hot Tub Time Machine, Wedding Crashers or The Hangover films and their ilk. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber helmed the sophomorically funny sports comedy, Dodgeball, and this is right about on that level of humor -- ribald but generally innocuous. I have to admit, I did find parts of the movie to be laugh-out-loud funny -- just enough to give it a modest recommendation. Nevertheless, it's a borderline call, and I do acknowledge it has its share of fairly substantial weaknesses that keep it from being as beloved as the aforementioned raunchy 'dumb comedy' classics.
The primary weakness comes through the casting. While Sudeikis and Aniston are relatively believable as the vanilla husband and wife, they strain credibility as the lifelong drug dealer and skanky stripper (who seems to have a problem taking all her clothes off), both meant to be perpetually profane and outrageous, and their performances when related to these aspects rings pretty hollow. Even as dirtbags-by-occupation they look too clean cut, and while they both have a gift for comedy, they exhibit none of the romantic tension required. The latter seems mostly an excuse to showcase Aniston and her killer body in as many skimpy outfits as possible while she jiggles it all for the camera for long periods (and in slo-mo) in scenes that are meant more for titillation than amusement. Although Aniston clearly has a killer body (and not just for a 44-year-old), scenes of her stripping down to her underwear tend to feel out of place with the rest, as if the comedy must be put on pause so that Thurber can shoot an expose for Maxim magazine to promote the movie.
The main hook of the film is that we're supposed to find it funny that this bland, wholesome family will do and say vulgar and sleazy things by default, as they struggle to keep their true, sleaze-ball nature under wraps to the public at large. That aspect isn't as funny as the characterizations. Most of the laughs come through savvy pop culture internet references and the random, exaggerated absurdity of the sight gags, which include such things as an orca chomping on a shark in Brad's massive personal aquarium, or a tarantula-bite that leads to one massively swollen testicle. These gags aren't funny in and of themselves except Thurber tosses them in with precision timing to catch us by surprise.
While problems with the plot, casting, predictability and the occasional lull keep me from proclaiming We're the Millers as a genuinely good film, if you're in the mood for a few stupid-clever, infectious laughs, you could do much worse than this one. The parts that are funny are actually very funny. If you like the Vacation films, and don't mind the foul-mouthed humor, keep expectations low and you'll probably have a good time with We're the Millers.
If you do decide to watch this guilty-pleasure comedy, stay for the blooper reel at the beginning of the end credits for some amusing outtakes, where you'll realize that much of the dialogue was written 'on the fly', despite four credited writers.
©2013 Vince Leo