We’re the Millers

We’re the Millers

Also opening this week:

• Elysium ★★★½

We’re the Millers

Rating

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Ed Helms, Jason Sudeikis, Nick Offerman, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts, Tomer Sisley, Lunden De’Leon, Luis Guzman, Thomas Lennon, Kathryn Hahn, Ken Marino. Written by Sean Anders, John Morris.

A profane yet genteel drug smuggling road comedy from Dodgeball director Rawson Marshall Thurber, We’re the Millers is predictable and formulaic to a hilt, but also has a goofy, likable streak that leaves a smile across your face. This one doesn’t reinvent the genre, but a good cast, upbeat atmosphere, and some choice gags keep things lively. 

There seems to be a thin line between dark and funny in contemporary comedy: recent films like Identity Thief, The Hangover Part III, and The Heat have all sacrificed laughs in favour of a more somber tone that tended to drag those film down. We’re the Millers plays things just slightly lighter – while still maintaining a vaguely serious tone that keeps a real-world threat plausible – and straddles the line successfully. 

Jason Sudeikis stars as small-time pot dealer David Clark, who runs into debt with local drug kingpin Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms) after his cash – and stash – is stolen by a youth gang. Brad gives him a choice: the debt can be wiped clean – and David can make an extra $100 grand – if he’ll transport a “smidge” of grass into the US from Mexico. 

While David doesn’t have much faith in his abilities as a drug smuggler, he gets a bright idea after seeing a clueless family in a RV. With stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), teenage runaway Casey (Emma Roberts), and oblivious neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter), he forms “The Millers”: a vacationing family in Mexico who just happen to be carrying marijuana in every nook and cranny of their massive RV.

The setup – with a little Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke vibe – is ripe for comedy riffing, and the cast doesn’t disappoint: SNL vet Sudeikis has a lot of fun attempting to balance his character’s cover with his with his true nature, while Aniston – in her mid-40s, but as beautiful as ever – gets to strut her stuff in a Flashdance-inspired striptease. But Poulter is the real breakout star here: as the squeaky-clean, virginal Kenny, his deadpan innocence results in some of the film’s biggest laughs. 

Structure and pacing however, are somewhat problematic. The film’s key event takes place with half of the movie left to transpire, resulting in a lot of wheel-spinning as things slowly reach their expected conclusion. There are few surprises along the way – wouldja believe this ragtag group actually (sniffle) learns to work as a real family along the way – but the light tone helps to keep things fun. 

A game supporting cast is also on hand to liven things up: Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn play RV-driving parents the group meets along the way, while Tomer Sisley (Largo Winch) plays a Mexican drug lord chasing them down. The State veterans Ken Marino and Thomas Lennon also show up in brief roles; Luis Guzman features in an uncomfortable cameo as a Mexican policeman. 

We’re the Millers was a surprise hit in the US, more than tripling its modest $30 million budget in its first three weeks of release (handily topping the superior sci-fi blockbuster Elysium, which it went head-to-head with). It may not amount to much, but there’s clearly a market for this kind of amiable, easy-going comedy, and that’s exactly what this film delivers. 

Stick around through the closing credits for a gag reel that contains one real highlight: a Candid Camera-like prank on Aniston that features the familiar Friends theme. Clearly, the cast & crew were having a good time making this film.


Jason Pirodsky

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Jason Pirodsky made his way to Prague via Miami and has stuck around, for better and worse, since 2004. A member of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org), some of his favorite movies include O Lucky Man!, El Topo, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Hellzapoppin'. Follow him on Twitter for some (slightly) more concise reviews.

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