Review: We're the Millers
PLOT: A low-level drug dealer recruits a stripper, a runaway teen and his dorky neighbor to act as his family while he attempts to smuggle marijuana from Mexico into the U.S.
REVIEW: As joke after joke landed with a thud, I slumped down in my seat early on during WE'RE THE MILLERS. It seemed this was going to be one of those R-rated comedies that just used F words to get by, laughing to itself for having such a filthy mouth while the rest of us roll our eyes and wait patiently for something actually funny to happen. I won't lie to you, the first act of this movie is a real bomb, setting up a completely contrived situation unworthy of the lamest sitcom and introducing characters that are utterly unlikable in every way. It was depressing.
And then, gratefully, WE'RE THE MILLERS found its footing after about 30 minutes, and the laughs did come. Not huge gut-busters, no, but reasonable laughs and more than a few smirks, thanks to some very well-timed set-pieces, some choice character work by supporting actors, and a consistently winning tone of cheery vulgarity that becomes hard to resist. WE'RE THE MILLERS is a fun movie more than it is a hilarious one, but I'll certainly take it.
The film's set-up is the stuff of late-night pot-smoking sessions: What if a group of total losers had to pose as a happy family in order to smuggle drugs across the U.S./Mexico border? They look lovably dorky to everyone they meet, yet in reality are bickering, foul-mouthed reprobates. The premise doesn't seem to have much promise early on, when we meet pot-dealing nobody David Clark (Jason Sudeikis), who needs to make up a debt to white-collar douchebag drug kingpin Brad (Ed Helms, doing his Ed Helms thing). David is tasked with the easier-said-than-done chore of transporting a "smidge" of weed (in actuality hundreds of pounds worth) from Mexico to the U.S. without getting caught, but since he looks like exactly what he is, David is going to need a disguise. And the disguise comes in the form of a happy family, whom certainly no border patrol is going to bother.
Since David doesn't really know anyone who is clean-cut, he'll have to settle for less. Way less. For a wife he finds down-on-her-luck stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), for a daughter he enlists grumpy teenage runaway Casey (Emma Roberts) and for a son he turns to his pathetic neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter), whose mother has apparently left him home alone weeks ago. The unlikely group agrees to David's scheme after he bribes them, and after a quick family make-over, it's off to Mexico in a souped-up mobile home. Oh, there's also a baby named "LeBron" too, but I won't tell you more than that.
The standard shenanigans ensue: the Millers encounter a plethora of cops, drug dealers and good-natured rubes along their journey. The movie ultimately becomes a surprisingly light-hearted affair as these individuals settle into their "characters" and begin to function as a unit. Of course, it's absolutely ridiculous, and you don't buy any of it for a second, but did you really walk into a movie from the director of DODGEBALL expecting something believable?
The cast is clearly having fun, and they're able to engage us in this rather slight story, as well as the predictable "sweet" moments that have to be shoe-horned into every raucous comedy nowadays. Sudeikis may not be Chevy Chase in his prime, but he's got that sardonic/sweet charisma that's somewhat in the same mold. Aniston is a capable foil for Sudeikis, not given all that much to do other than look smokin' hot and toss off casual F-bombs, but her presence is welcome because she's such a natural (whether you want to admit it or not). Will Poulter comes away the scene-stealer, as Kenny is the type of dorky underdog whom the audience is just dying to see the alternate side of. Thankfully WE'RE THE MILLERS gives him a handful of triumphs that we can cheer for, and the young actor handles his role with wide-eyed charm.
The movie's best stretch comes when the Millers encounter another road-tripping couple, played by Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn. Positioned as clueless squares, these two end up being a bit weirder than they seem on the surface, and there are a few truly inspired bits of lewdness as the Millers and their new friends camp for the night that are sure to be remembered. (Just wait 'til you see the "kissing" sequence; oh my.) It helps that Offerman and Hahn are so damn good; Offerman, of course, is "dour" personified, while Hahn takes the role of chirpy/kooky midwestern wife to a whole new level.
WE'RE THE MILLERS also thankfully doesn't make us overdose on the sap. Yes, as mentioned before, it feels the need to get a bit "tender" towards the end, but it never turns into an Afterschool Special the way some other comedies unbearably do; the film is so snarky that it knows you won't take that nonsense seriously, so it doesn't waste its energy on tugging the heartstrings.