‘We’re the Millers’ Review
‘We’re the Millers‘ is a vexing film. It’s just funny enough to keep from being truly bad, but too preposterous and predictable to be anything close to good. For every laugh there’s something that will make you want to hurl an object at the screen. When it flubs, it flubs hard, allowing each of the four main characters a chance to embarrass themselves. And yet, if you wait ’til the next scene, there’s the possibility that whoever just served up a would-be joke in a humiliating fashion will do something inspired. As such, ‘We’re the Millers’ wins some respect for at least being a very odd moviegoing experience.
The high-concept premise hinges on this: lowlives are people, too. Inside the heart of every drug dealer, stripper, runaway and abandoned dork beats the heart of a picket fence-r yearning to conform. If you can put aside any concept of what life is really like on America’s legal fringe and accept this whitewashed version, the hijinks are amusing. After getting robbed, harmless dimebag pot salesman Jason Sudeikis agrees to smuggle “a smidge” of marijuana in from Mexico for weirdo drug kingpin (and orca owner) Ed Helms.
After snarking at a lost “real-life Ned Flanders” in a giant RV, he realizes that a goody-goody family is the perfect cover. He enlists a bozo twerp in his building (Will Poulter) to pretend to be his son and local homeless girl (Emma Roberts with a lip-ring) to pretend to be his daughter. He’s also able to convince his broke and fed-up stripper neighbor (Jennifer Aniston), with whom he has been bickering for years, to be his “wife.”
You know what will happen. They will have hijinks (many of them involving Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman as actual RV-driving squares), and they will have unconvincing action scenes, and they will eventually learn to grow and bond as a “family.”
There’s a broken spine in ‘We’re The Millers.’ Either these are delinquent outsiders to society or not. We are expected to believe that they just “forget” that their Cleaver-esque position is simply a cover story and begin bickering and worrying about the kids’ dating habits. This after a near hedonistic “let’s teach junior/little brother how to french kiss” marathon with “dad” watching and eating Kettle Chips like a deviant skeeze. Frankly, the perverse stuff works much better (what? What’re you implying with that look?) and the wholesome ending feels like a humongous studio note. (It’s nuts: everyone in this film is totally cool with transporting and selling drugs.)
But what about those funny scenes I promised? Well there’s a misunderstood swingers’ scene involving Kathryn Hahn that amuses, as well as a nice (albeit forced) Pictionary sequence. (Not as funny as ‘I Give It A Year”s charades bit, but we’ll take it.) Also, Ed Helms’ unpredictable big boss adds some fresh air, though you can tell he shot all of his scenes in a day. The best moment may be a solid, half-buried joke about Chex Mix.
As far as the negative is concerned, the less we talk about Aniston’s big strip tease moment the better. Same with the forced “this is what a screenwriter hopes desperate people sound like” dialogue. Find me folks from this social strata who are really into Tom Waits and I’ll drive an RV full of weed over the Mexican border.
You tell me what you think when you catch ‘We’re The Millers’ on basic cable.
‘We’re the Millers’ opens in theaters tomorrow, August 7.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen in the New York Daily News and on Badass Digest and StarTrek.com.