We’re the Millers
Posted August 7, 2013 by Daniel Hodgson in
We’re the Millers had me worried from the word “go,” opening with borrowed laughs from YouTube videos such as “Double Rainbow” and “Surprised Kitty.”
Said videos are being watched by David (Jason Sudeikis), who’s still selling pot at his age. David runs into an old college chum played by Thomas Lennon. The two have a conversation that exists solely for quick and dirty characterization, to relate that David is still childless and unmarried. Lennon then disappears, never to be seen again. A stellar opening.
Soon after, three hoodlums rob David of $4,300 in cash and merchandise. It’s not long before David’s boss Brad has his men force him into a van and bring him in.
Brad (Ed Helms) offers to forgive David’s debt, and pay him $100,000 to smuggle a “smidge” of marijuana across the border. It’s a good deal, but there’s a catch: if David gets caught, he could spend 25 years in a Mexican jail—if he’s lucky.
There’s no way David could travel alone without getting busted; it would look too suspicious. That’s when a family passes by in a motor home asking for directions, which gives David an idea.
David asks Kenny (Will Poulter), Casey (Emma Roberts) and Rose (Jennifer Aniston) to go with him across the border as a family. Except they’re not a family at all. Rose is not really his wife; she’s a stripper who hates his guts. Casey is not really his daughter; she’s a street-wise teen runaway. And Kenny is not really his son; he’s an awkward nerd, and obviously still a virgin at eighteen. They’re all bribed to pose as his seemingly innocuous, very white family. It’s the perfect cover.
After an initially clumsy setup, We’re the Millers finds its footing, and turns into a fairly funny road trip comedy.
As with most good road trip movies, We’re the Millers has the faux-family run into interesting, often funny people along the way. The Millers run into a corrupt Mexican cop (Luis Guzman), who will accept cash or favors to look the other way. Later, they run into the Fitzgeralds (Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn), who are on vacation with their daughter (Molly C. Quinn), and would like “Mr. & Mrs. Miller” to spice up each other’s marriages with a bit of swinging. Later on yet, Casey meets “Scotty P.,” (Mark L. Young) a hip-hop white boy, who ends his sentences with empty phrases like, “Know what I’m sayin’?” Beneath his hip-hop persona, no doubt modeled after rapper and reality TV show personalities, there is simply nothing there. He’s hilariously shallow.
As for the Millers themselves, you’d never want to be on a road trip with them, but it’s fun to sit back and watch them bicker and squabble (who says they’re not a real family?). Aniston and Sudeikis have wonderful comedic chemistry together, but it’s Poulter who holds the film together as Kenny, the butt of many jokes. There’s a funny scene where Casey takes pity on the poor inexperienced boy, and gives him his first kiss. And then so does Rose. At the same time.
Once it gets going, We’re the Millers has the elements of a good story. There’s stakes here; they either gain or lose everything. That the characters have to maintain a deception or two creates tension, and the comedy releases that tension.
However, late in the third act, the film’s tone shifts 180 degrees from cynical to schmaltzy, dulling the film’s bite as a satire of the white American family. The film gets off to a rocky start, finds its footing, and then stumbles again just before the credits roll. A real klutz this one is.
It doesn’t quite come together as a film, but as a vehicle for laughs, We’re the Millers gets the job done. To its credit, it paces itself in a comedic sense, getting funnier as it goes along. In short, it’s worth the watch.