Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We're the Millers

*** out of ****

Here’s something nobody needs: An unfunny evaluation of a comedy movie. We’re the Millers is one of those hit-and-miss lowbrow comedies with enough big laughs to deserve my recommendation. Its far-fetched plot is perfect material for the genre and the players are all on the mark. The writing is the only area where things get a little messy but I've learned to expect this problem from your average comedy movie.

Jason Sudeikis is David, a Denver marijuana dealer who is in a predicament with an absurdly powerful boss played by Ed Helms. He is cornered into taking on a smuggling operation which requires flying to Mexico and moving some product into the states with a giant RV. David, uncomfortable with the risk involved, recruits people to accompany him as a faux family in order to thwart suspicion.

For a wife, there is his apartment building neighbor Rose, played by Jennifer Aniston, who is a down-on-her-luck stripper. For a daughter he finds Casey, played by Emma Roberts as a gutter-punk with nothing to lose. To top it all off and provide most of the film’s laughs, there is Kenny, who doesn't need much to convince anyone he’s the naïve goofball son. Kenny is played by a relative newcomer, British actor, Will Poulter, who has a face that looks as if it belongs in a Norman Rockwell portrait of an adolescent boy.
Sudeikis’ character, David, is an ideal smartass and Jennifer Aniston’s talent for displaying deep resentment with a straight face never fails. Emma Roberts is Julia Roberts’ niece…

Also in the film, are Nick Offerman from Parks and Recreation and comedy fail-safe character actress Kathryn Hahn as a married couple in another RV, whose friendliness gets a little closer than the group of smugglers would prefer.

This film’s setup is a farce that guarantees vulgar screwball situations, many of which are more ridiculous than funny. The movie’s money scene when Aniston shows off her fantastic body to dangerous drug lords in a strip-tease feels rather arbitrary but I’m sure it’s what is selling tickets. I just felt like the same scenario could have happened under funnier circumstances.

As always, I have a problem with loosely-structured comedies that surpass the ninety-minute mark. Thankfully, this one is less than two hours but there is some deadweight it could stand to lose. The screenplay is the culmination of work from two separate pairs of writers. One pair was the team behind Wedding Crashers the other was behind Hot Tub Time Machine. The movie lacks a focused sense of humor but big studio comedies rarely have such a thing. The director is the guy behind Dodgeball, and clearly knows how to work well with big group casts, recognizing each actor’s potential hilarity, including the possible character dynamics that will keep things interesting.

Any ensemble in a movie, whether it’s about a team of superheroes, B.F.F. Manhattan ladies, or male bank robbers, can easily be interpreted as an allegory for a family. The inevitable strength of this movie is that it is about a group of people pretending to be a family, becoming one as a result of the ordeal, and they still remain a group of jerks.

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