Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Comedy Movie Review of ‘We’re the Millers’ (2013)

Movie Review of ‘We’re the Millers’ (2013)

Fundamentally RV by way of Pineapple Express, 2013’s We’re the Millers is an audience-pleasing comedy played out with an R-rated sensibility, happy to indulge in lewd, vulgar absurdity without breaking any new ground in the genre. Fortunately, even though it’s episodic and formulaic, We’re the Millers is also very funny, with director Rawson Marshall Thurber (2004’s Dodgeball) settling into an agreeable rhythm of one-liners and character antics which keep the flick entertaining more often than not. It’s only occasionally laugh-out-loud hilarious, but not all of the comedic highlights were spoiled in the marketing materials, which is miraculous in today’s cinematic climate.

A professional drug dealer and a world-class slacker, David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) ends up getting robbed whilst trying to stop a mugging, resulting in him losing his entire supply of weed and money. Consequently, David finds himself in hot water with his boss, drug lord Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms), who offers him the chance to pay his debt and earn a lot of money in the process. His assignment is to pick up a stash of marijuana in Mexico, and smuggle it back into the United States. Fearing that a single guy travelling alone might look suspicious, he concocts a hopefully can’t-miss plan: he hires stripped Rose (Jennifer Aniston), homeless runaway Casey (Emma Roberts), and awkward teen Kenny (Will Poulter) to play the role of his wholesome all-American family, thus keeping attention off the drug smuggling. As “The Millers” hit the road in an RV, they begin to bond, and soon meet road-tripping couple Don (Nick Offerman) and Edie (Kathryn Hahn), who believe the faux family’s story…and refuse to leave them alone.

The basic premise of We’re the Millers is a strong one, incorporating a few well-worn conventions but otherwise bringing forth a fresh, original concept. However, the plot is not strong enough to sustain a feature-length motion picture, necessitating a handful of narrative tangents that cripple the pace. This would be fine if only the execution was stronger, but We’re the Millers runs far too long at almost two hours, continually getting bogged down between the big comic payoffs. Most egregious is the emergence of a rival drug lord out to reclaim his stash; he barely makes an impression and only comes across as an afterthought, as if the writers were obligated by formula to include an antagonist. Moreover, the film almost goes off the rails when it starts to take David’s relationship with his acting partners seriously, attempting to infuse the picture with tenderness but ultimately falling short. And the content involving Ron and Edie is far too long-winded. None of this is enough to ruin the experience, but a brisker, leaner, perhaps darker movie might’ve been more satisfying.

The script was written by Bob Fisher and Steve Faber (Wedding Crashers), as well as Sean Anders and John Morris (Sex Drive), hence We’re the Millers is very much an R-rated fare, geared towards the folks who enjoy movies like Hot Tub Time Machine and The Hangover. Since comedy is subjective, it’s difficult to predict anyone’s reaction to the movie’s humour, but if you like this brand of R-rated material, you should find We’re the Millers to be hilarious. A lot of laughs are mined through savvy pop culture references and absurd sight gags, include the image of an orca chomping on a shark in Brad’s personal aquarium, and a tarantula bite yielding a massively swollen testicle. Otherwise, the profane dialogue is often amusing, though there’s not a great deal of wit to be seen here. Indeed, We’re the Millers is more of a scattergun experience, rather than a carefully-executed showcase of comedy genius. Not that this is a drawback – just an observation. However, the picture loses its way when it turns serious; Thurber cannot quite sell the transition from broad to heartfelt.

Saturday Night Live veteran Sudeikis is a charismatic presence as David, displaying a strong understanding of timing and delivery. But it’s Jennifer Aniston who steals the show; she’s absolutely on fire as Rose, exhibiting flawless comic intuition and making her character simultaneously irritable and sympathetic. Moreover, Aniston is still extremely attractive despite her age, and a scene of her performing an elaborate impromptu striptease is an inspired, sexy highlight. As the fictional kids, Roberts and Poulter are spot-on, blending right into the R-rated lunacy. (And Poulter has got to be the luckiest actor of his generation; he extensively makes out with both Roberts and Aniston in one scene. Fuck.) Further standouts in the cast include Hangover performer Ed Helms, while Parks and Recreation mainstay Nick Offerman is great here as well.

While there are problems on a script level, and there are a few pacing lulls that preventWe’re the Millers from becoming one of 2013’s standout comedies, it does its job well enough. It’s an often amusing variation on National Lampoon’s Vacation, and the parts that are funny are very, very funny. If you’re in the mood for a fun time-killer, you could do a lot worse. And if you do watch the movie, be sure to stick around for a blooper reel during the end credits. It closes the door with a smile, and underscores how much of the dialogue was improvised despite four writers being credited for the screenplay.

6.5/10

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