Saturday, August 10, 2013

We’re The Millers...The Anti-Christ of Family Films

     It has been a long while since I’ve gone to a movie that had me laughing out loud. We’re The Millers had some great comedic moments. Sadly, the occasional hilarity was not enough to save this RV wreck of a motion picture.

     We’re The Millers focuses on thirty-something David Clark’s (Jason Sudeikis) mission to smuggle two tons of marijuana from Mexico to Denver, Colorado. To accomplish this, Clark enlists his stripper neighbor, Rose (Jennifer Aniston), a lonely and neglected teen-aged friend Kenny (Will Poulter), and to round out the ensemble, a homeless street-thief girl, Casey (Emma Roberts). Together, this foursome poses as an all-American family in an RV literally stuffed with weed. The conflict begins when Clark discovers that his employer has double-crossed not only him but Pablo Chacon (Tomer Cisley), the rightful owner of the kind green stuff. Additionally, the “Miller Family” is befriended on the road by another traveling family, the Fitzgeralds – Don, Edie & Melissa (Nick Offerman, Katherine Hahn and Molly Quinn, respectively) – an over-friendly, white bread slice of American middle-class monotony. Oh, by the way, Don is a DEA agent on vacation! Uh-oh! Predictably, the “Millers” bond, develop real familial ties and learn the most important lesson of family: you may not always like each other, but in the end, you’re all in it together.

     Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis tackles his first starring role with the subdued cool of a young Chevy Chase. It is probably safe to say that We’re The Millers owes some genetic material to National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)--in fact, I’d go so far as to say that Clark (?!) Griswold and David Clark almost certainly share a common ancestor...Maybe, Uncle Milty?

     Jennifer Aniston plays stripper-turned-mom, Rose, as smart, strong and no nonsense. Additionally, Aniston proves she’s still the sex symbol that she became on Friends by performing one of the greatest pole dances seen on film since Flashdance(1983). There’s even a Flashdance homage as she soaks herself under an industrial emergency shower!

     Will Poulter and Emma Roberts both turned in convincing performances in this family road trip from hell, but I think I need to single out Poulter’s work for some high praise. He portrays Kenny as pathetically nerdish and naive, yet possessing a big heart and real courage in the face of adversity. Poulter plays this poor kid so well that it is hard to believe his resume includes pictures like Son of Rambow and Chronicles of Narnia. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more from this young man in the future.

We’re The Millers lurches between outrageously hip hilarity and tedious awkwardness -- the kind of awkwardness that makes an audience cringe at a situation, not with it -- and a tedium that comes from forced, hackneyed moments of emotion. I felt forced to watch it. This film failed to commit fully to the irreverent, as much as to the heart. Consequently, the irreverent made the heart seem corny, and the heart made the irreverent seem vulgar. There was never an organic integration of the two, as there was in films like Bad Santa(2003).

     Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball(2004)) even took that Hail Mary comedy shot of showing supposedly humorous out-takes before the end credits. OK, while the scene where Sudeikis, Poulter and Roberts bust out the theme from Friends is cute, the whole idea of showing out-takes is, in my opinion, the hallmark of a bad director desperate for cheap laughs.

This film’s greatest flaw lies in its basic plot: Weed is legal in Colorado. Medical marijuana has been legal for many years, and last year, we voted to make it totally legal – now, one can own up to an ounce for personal use. There’s no need to import the stuff from Mexico anymore, we grow it here, lots of it, and it’s damn good...I hear.

     The trade-off between comedic gags and painful schmaltz resulted in neither a brilliantly funny, nor completely “feel good” picture. This film seemed to try and play both ends off the middle, consequently becoming underwhelming in its mediocrity. The final scene could easily be a set-up for a sequel (Hmm, They’re The Millers?), but I would be surprised if that ever happens. Yes, I had a few good laughs, but aside from Jennifer Aniston’s pole dance, sitting through We’re The Millers there was only one place I wanted to be...anywhere but the theater I was in.

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