Simple but charming, We’re The Millers is funny and intelligent but ultimately brings nothing new to the table. (6/10)
We’re The Millers is the kind of comedy where you know what’s coming as soon as you read the movie summary but that doesn’t really detract from the comedic value of the movie. It’s not a new story but a combination of more familiar stories told in a new, coarser way. It is an interesting movie, refreshing in its self-awareness, an unusual take on the typical wacky dysfunctional family vacation movie mixed with a little bit of movies like Pineapple Express. The combination is as solid on screen as it is on paper; the individual characters’ varied backgrounds give the writers enough material to keep the laughs coming though the humor itself can be a little clumsy sometimes, a touch too crude and bawdy for my taste at other times. Luckily the humor is delivered by able agents in the form of Jason Sudekis and Jennifer Aniston. They carry a story that, unsurprisingly enough, has absolutely no unexpected twists – but that’s perfectly fine, this is a movie that you watch for the journey, not the destination.
Those of you who read my review of Horrible Bosses might recall that I’ve expressed doubt that Sudekis could ever really be a good lead actor in a movie. Well, I was wrong; in a cast full of decidedly B-list talent (let’s face it Jennifer Aniston’s best days are well past her), he most certainly can play a relatively decent lead man. I’m not saying that the cast did a bad job, but at the same time I can’t in all honesty claim that this role made any of them flex their acting chops. Having said that, Sudekis is an excellent fit for this kind of role – he has enough of an aura of douchebaggery to make the audience believe that he can be a self-absorbed drug dealer/smuggler but has enough charm to flip that on its head and show some vulnerability and make us believe that underneath it all he’s actually a pretty decent dude. More than anything, the chemistry he and Aniston share is enough to justify the casting decision in both their cases. Aniston plays a character that is well within her comfort zone – a strong female lead, confident in her sexuality, a little rough on the edges but ultimately just as sweet and good-natured as Sudekis’ character. The stripping scenes however, seemed a little foreign to her – she wasn’t quite as sure of herself and it showed. However, being as much a veteran of small screen comedy as Sudekis is, her comic timing is impeccable and arguably more refined and subtle than her co-star’s is. The stripper with a heart of gold is hardly a new trope but Aniston is able to turn it into something more, giving the character just the right touch of sensitivity and vulnerability while being snarky enough the rest of the time to keep the audience entertained. The rest of the family, actors Emma Roberts and Will Poulter who play a street smart runaway and an exceptionally awkward 18 year old, do well in creating that family charm and are pretty funny in their own right.
In term of plot, the whole movie a series of predictable misadventures with a bunch of supporting characters getting mixed up in it. These misadventures themselves are rather fun though there are moments where the whole thing seems a little too forced. There are times when the writers simply seem to be trying too hard to defy conventional comedy tropes. Having a Roberts’ character explicitly say “This is not one of those bullshit moments where the guy and girl fall in love” isn’t good writing, it’s not clever, it’s clumsy and unnecessary – there are plenty of smoother, more organic ways of saying the same thing without smashing the fourth wall to pieces. Similarly the romantic tension between the various characters is all resolved within a single scene, making it seem extremely rushed. It wasn’t all bad though; there were some new kinds of mishaps that I wasn’t expecting. Without giving too much away, there was a scene fairly early in the movie when I thought this movie was going for a totally different tone. Sudekis’ character had convinced that Poulter’s character that the latter would need to provide a corrupt police offer with some sexual services in order to bypass inspection. The situation was diffused without the need for any such things, but it was an interesting moment – I was sure this wasn’t the movie where director Thurber decided to for dark humor in an extremely mainstream movie, but I was genuinely excited that they might try something so edgy.
From the get go, it’s clear that “We’re The Millers” is trying very hard to not conform to your typical comedy tropes, an endeavor in which it is, mildly successfully at best. It’s like they spent 90% of the movie not succumbing to those tropes only to cave in during the final 10%, undoing all their prior efforts. Despite that, the movie was simplistic fun, with some genuinely funny moments and a cast that was able to bring some charm to an otherwise bumpy journey.
Jennifer Aniston – Rose O’Reilly
Jason Sudeikis – David Clark
Emma Roberts – Casey Mathis
Will Poulter – Kenny Rossmore
Ed Helms – Brad Gurdlinger
Nick Offerman – Don Fitzgerald
Kathryn Hahn – Edie Fitzgerald