Film Review – We’re The Millers
We're The Millers
The new film We’re The Millers fulfills the most important rule of comedy: it’s funny. It may be a bit overlong, the story beats might be predictable, but you will laugh. The cast boasts a roster of genuinely funny people and at times there is a hint of intelligence behind the raunchy humor. While it falls short of greatness, which would have been served by committing to a harder edge than it ends up with, it is still a fun watch.
Jason Sudeikis stars as a low-level drug dealer who has been stuck in a rut dealing weed since college. Ducking out on commitment and responsibility, he is just coasting through life. One day, while trying to help rescue a homeless runaway (Emma Roberts) from getting attacked by street thugs, his stash and money get stolen. He ends up in debt to his supplier, a boisterous Ed Helms. His debt will be forgiven if he agrees to smuggle a load of weed back across the border from Mexico to Denver. So he concocts a scheme to drive an RV disguised as an upstanding white family man with a fake nuclear family he hires. His “daughter” is Roberts’s street urchin, his “son” a vacant neighbor played charmingly by Will Poulter, and his “wife” is really a stripper, played by a game Jennifer Aniston. The stresses of crossing the border without raising suspicion, accidentally double-crossing drug cartels, avoiding DEA agents, and testing each other’s patience drive this comedic road movie.
When we talk about the predictable story beats, you can already see some of them coming. Is the stripper actually smarter than she seems and does she care more than initially thought? Sure. Does the street-smart runaway appreciate parental attention even if she acts like she doesn’t need anyone? Yup. Does the drug dealer find that he cares about his makeshift family more than the money he might make? Saw that coming. Also, like most comedies anymore, if they had the guts to maintain a harder edge, it would raise the film from good to great. For instance, the plot is very reminiscent of the TV show Weeds, with its seemingly suburban family really being dealers. But that show is much more subversive in its commentary about contemporary life as it undercuts the image of white respectability with hilariously awful behavior. Similarly, family bickering was taken to sharper depths in the brilliant War of the Roses. That movie is the kind of dark comedy that has the guts to follow through with being uncomfortably mean in a great way. We’re The Millers has the seeds of that edge. But it ends up being more formulaic than it should be.
However, it is funny. Standout scenes include a comedic kissing lesson that the teenage son receives, another involving an unfortunately placed spider bite, an attempt at “swinging” with an overly friendly couple at an RV park (played by the always wonderful Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman), Ed Helms’s ridiculous aquarium-filled drug kingpin lair, a quick appearance from Thomas Lennon, a build-up to trading “favors” to bribe Luis Guzman as a Mexican police officer, and some fun outtakes during the end credits. It’s funny that the border patrol is far more concerned with stopping illegal immigrants than looking at a white family twice. It’s funny that most of the family-father-types who run into the drug dealer seem jealous of his shiftless existence. All of the jokes surrounding how nonchalant each of the “family” members are about any one of them being used or abused land well. Also, Sudeikis has some snarky dialogue that shows a brain behind the script. Whether he makes comments at the pathetic suburban types he despises or stares straight at the audience with a “we know this is completely ridiculous but we also know you guys are enjoying this” look during the completely gratuitous striptease that Aniston performs that was prominently featured in the trailer, he shows that he can actually sustain the lead in a film.
The finale is a bit anticlimactic. It falls short of being great because while the story itself is a strong idea for a comedy, they don’t end up taking it in any new directions. It’s good to see this cast in a fun comedy again. And especially with what usually passes as comedy during the dregs of late summer (I’m looking at you, Grown Ups 2), this is definitely a fun way to spend a couple of hours. Enjoy.