We're the Millers
2013 - 110 minutes
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Written by: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, John Morris
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Ed Helms
“We’re the Millers” is a road comedy that almost arrives at an entertaining destination, but there are too may pit stops along the way that halt the momentum. The actors and characters that embody the phony Miller family are enjoyable to spend time with, but the script contrivances throw up too many blockades. At its worst, the film feels like it’s ticking boxes of a situational comedy checklist.
Jason Sudeikis plays David Clark, a small-time, laid back Denver pot dealer blissful in his slackerish loner existence. One night his pot and cash is stolen and he has to answer to the supplier at the top of his drug food chain, Brad (Ed Helms). The early scene with Sudeikis and Helms is strange because they look so similar; it’s almost as if Helms is the after photo of a corporate makeover.
To make up for losing the stash and cash, Brad coerces David into being a drug mule, promising he only has to bring back a “smidge” or “smidge and a half” of product from south of the border. Inspiration strikes and David enlists a rag-tag group to pose as his family and aid in his quest to bring back the weed without arousing suspicion at the Mexican border.
Jennifer Aniston is Rose, a broke stripper who doesn’t fit the ‘stripper with a heart a hard of gold’ mold, at least it’s not quite 24 karat. Completing the fake family are Kenny (Will Poulter), a credulous teen who lives in David’s apartment building and Casey (Emma Roberts), a street-wise runaway.
The best moments of the mismatched team come when the group is playing off of each other within their situation – shy Kenny romancing a girl or the group singing along to the radio. But what could’ve been a fun riff on “National Lampoon’s Vacation” turns into a mishmash of familiar beats from several other modern comedies. An encounter with a spider that sends Kenny to the hospital. Car chases with vehicles driving through one another. Threating hit men/drug dealers/gangsters on the tails of the main characters. And so on.
If “We’re the Millers” didn’t try so hard to create MOMENTS, it likely would’ve come about several better ones naturally. Aniston’s strip tease is thrown in arbitrarily to have a Jennifer Aniston strip scene. The lead up – with several “no, really she is a stripper” lines is painful. And was I the only one distracted with the way the Aerosmith classic “Sweet Emotion” was chopped up? It’s a song that everyone can sing along to, but it’s hard when every line is incongruous and mixed together. But whatever, hey, it’s a Jennifer Aniston strip tease!
This and most of the higher concept setups fall flat, while the tonal changes with the bogus family dynamic are jarring - at each other’s throats one scene and genuinely caring the next. Wait, maybe they did too good of a job at acting like a real family. The final act has to spend too much time tying up the loose ends of the plot – much of it involving a friendly DEA agent and his wife (Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn) the crew encounter in their travels.
While Sudeikis shows he has the ability to tone down his acerbic wit enough to still be funny without being grating, it feels like he and Aniston are hamstrung by the script credited to four writers. They – and the potential of the film as a whole – are being smothered and it shows.
© 2013 by Blake Crane