[Review] - We're The Millers

Courtesy of New Line Cinema
About the best thing you can say about We're The Millers is that it boldly asks the question, "would Nick Offerman look just as awesome with a horseshoe moustache as he does with his usual Swanson chevron?" The answer, as is no surprise, yes. Yes he does.

The rest of the film is yet another example of the sort of Hangover/Apatow inspired "extreme comedy" that has dominated the genre for the past decade (actually, basically since Anchorman, which I hope means that Anchorman 2 will kill this sub genre entirely). The sort of film that parades cuss words and sensational nearly-nudity in place of having actual jokes. The sort of film that basks in taking things to the limit, but then never really taking things to the limit. You get the sense that somewhere in the four credited writers, there was a disagreement as to where to establish the tone of the film, and that if they had taken things to an actual extreme, or dialled back and attempted to make a film that had a heart at the core of the comedy, it might have been a better film. Instead, it awkwardly rides that line, being neither while trying to be both, and results in being utterly forgettable.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that once had to fake a dead uncle on a flight to Nairobi, but that's neither here nor there.

You do have to give Millers credit where it is due, despite being set up as a road movie, it displays none of the usual tropes of that genre. Unlike recent examples like Identity Thief or Due Date, Millers avoids the episodic nature these films tend to get hung up on, despite the trailers clearly selling it that way. The plot, such as it is, follows a single thread, and any hi jinks that ensue follow along that basic line. And it is a basic line. Very basic. There is no attempt to redefine the genre here, the multiple writers apparently fine with towing the line so exactly, you don't actually need to see the film. Watch the trailers for the jokes that land, and everything else can be seen coming as far back as the concession line.

Interestingly, and I use that word quite wrongly, the "plot" of the film is wrapped up within twenty minutes. For those not in the know, Jason Sudeikis is a small time drug dealer who gets in hock with his boss (Ed Helms), and to make up for it is asked to smuggle "a smidge and a bit" of weed into the US from Mexico. In one of the film's earlier and actaully funny jokes, an encounter with a "real life Ned Flanders" makes him decide to fake having a family in order to avoid suspicion. He convinces Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and Will Poulter to pose as said family, the Millers. This opens a fairly large plot hole, considering at no time does this merry band procure any fake ID's or passports; either a statement on the lax state of affairs at US Mexico border crossings, or all four of the writers forgot that bit.

Anyway, the whole "getting the pot out of Mexico" thing is resolved by the end of the first act. I was kind of impressed with the decision not to have that be the main obstacle for the "heroes," forsaking any number of coyote run sequences and high speed desert RV chases with border patrol. Instead, the whole point of the film is rendered moot, and the film looses focus. They couldn't avoid adding in a man hunt, as a rival Mexican cartel leader hunts them across Arizona (again, opening a plot hole of, how did the Mexican cartel leader get across border control. One might assume he'd be known to law enforcement). Like all road films, the begrudged travellers learn to love one another over the length of the film, but Millers isn't too interested in that side line, so instead of happening smoothly over the run time, it happens in frantic fits and starts, mostly wherever there was a gap in the jokes. And there are the comic misunderstandings that occur while trying to preserve their cover story, which once they are back in the US becomes pointless.

Now, I say comic misunderstandings, but don't take that to mean that they are funny. The jokes worth laughing at are few and far between here. Those that land tend to be the quick ones, the ones that slap you up side the face and run off. This film prefers to take it's time with the jokes, too long, leading to promising one offs that don't know enough to stop, like the Hemp baby, or the Swinging scene. The gags go on so long, neither the writers nor any improv from the actors can save them. A joke that leads to a punch line is funny, so long as there actually is a punch line, and so long as once you arrive at it, you remember what the rest of the joke was about. Sudeikis tries to salvage as much as he can, but there is only so much his asshole character can do. Offerman and Kathryn Hahn are left in a similar situation, neither able to reach their full potential in their roles.

Emma Roberts shows some early promise as a foul mouthed runaway, but this side gets neutered once the khaki pants arrive. She might have a future in the gross out comedy field, if given a chance to actually surprise the viewer. Aniston, who is trying to cultivate just such a career since TV and rom-coms have stopped working for her, doesn't show that same promise. She's uncomfortable, not with the material, but with trying to make her delivery sound genuine. It's like she doesn't know how to be rude. Despite getting accolades for her much raunchier turn in Horrible Bosses, she was the weakest performance in that film too, if only because you can never quite buy her in that role. Type-casting or not, she isn't putting in the effort to shrug off the preconceptions.

There are moments in Millers that are fun. Offerman beating a guy down with a massive travel mug comes to mind. But the rest of the movie falls apart, through stupidity (the Orca gag), attempted extremism (the spider bite) that comes off as little more then timid, or the emotional parts that are apparently necessary in every comedy, meant to show that these assholes have a softer side too. I would have given the film more credit if they had screwed convention and just made a film about assholes smuggling drugs. No learning, no loving, just cuss words and antisocial behaviour. Instead, he got another bland comedy that, now that I've seen it, I can forget it ever existed.

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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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