"You're telling me this woman in the capris and the sensible shoes is a stripper?"
One of the biggest surprises of the summer of 2004 was the film Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, if for no other reason than it was one of the very few comedies that didn't give away every single funny joke in the trailer. In fact, the trailers made the film look so unfunny, I almost avoided it entirely, but thankfully they trusted audiences enough to not give away all their best jokes in the advertising. That film's writer & director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, made one other feature, 2008's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which I, like everyone else apparently, have never seen.
For his third feature, he's right back in familiar territory with We're The Millers, a raunchy late summer comedy that had an advertising campaign which seemed to suggest it was following in Dodgeball's footsteps. Did this hold to be true? Read on to find out...
David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) is a low rent drug dealer working for the much bigger supplier, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms). When David is robbed of his stash and all of his money, Brad gives him a chance to work off his debt, plus earn $100,000 extra. He has to go down to Mexico and pick up " a smidge, smidge and a half" of weed and bring it back across the border to Denver, where they live. David is at a loss for how to do this until he sees a "real-life Flanders" driving an RV through the city, and it dawns on him: Get some folks to pile into an RV, pretend to be a family, and the border patrol won't give them a second look.
Kenny (Will Poulter) a teenage loner in David's apartment building is all too eager to pose as his son, but unless they want to look like they're competing in the "pervert Olympics," they'll need a mother and sister. They rope Casey (Emma Roberts) into helping them by offering her $1000, and David enlists the reluctant help of his stripper neighbor Rose (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as the kids' mother.
With a family in place and an RV waiting for them on the US side of the border, The Miller "family" sets out to do some light drug smuggling. Of course when they arrive in Mexico, the RV is loaded down with so much marijuana, they'll have no hope of making it back across the border, but that becomes the least of their problems when all hell begins to break loose.
First and foremost, anyone hoping for a second lightning strike with director Thurber will be sorely disappointed. This is, unfortunately, one of those films where virtually all of the funniest jokes were in the trailer, particularly if you've seen both the green and red band versions. If you're holding out hope that there would be some variety in the riffing and improv runs that were shown in the trailer, you're likely to be letdown as most of the jokes appear exactly as is. There are a handful of funny jokes, and a very funny supporting character named Scottie P (Mark L. Young) that came as a surprise, but for the most part, the filmmakers had nothing up their sleeve.
It also doesn't help that the plot was absurdly predictable and by the numbers, almost to the point where you could feel the next story beat being telegraphed twenty minutes ahead of time. There were a handful of things that I expected to happen that did not happen (which was odd considering how obvious the setups seemed to be), but for the most part, everything played out exactly as I expected it to before I even set foot in the theater, which was severely disenchanting. It's not completely unexpected however, particularly considering the film has four credited writers (with credits that include the similarly predictable Wedding Crashers & Hot Tub Time Machine).
Much like Wedding Crashers lived or died on how much you enjoy Vince Vaughn's extended riffing, so too does We're The Millers rely on Jason Sudeikis to do all of the heavy lifting in the comedy department. I like Sudeikis a lot, but there's something utterly repellant about the characters he tends to play in these big budget comedies like this and Horrible Bosses. I don't know why he's being pigeonholed into these kinds of roles, but he seems like a decent guy in real life, and I'd like to see him play one sometime.
The rest of the cast is nothing to write home about. Aniston is fine, though I've never cared for her much as an actress (she's just not that funny) and her two "striptease" sequences seemed contractually obligated more than plot driven. Poulter and Roberts are fine, though neither stand out as doing anything unexpected. Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn have some genuinely funny bits as a white bread RV family that keeps crossing paths with The Millers, but their scenes are so drawn out, they cease to be funny after several minutes.
As a matter of fact, that seems to be the biggest issue overall with this entire film. It just doesn't know when to say enough is enough. Virtually every scene goes on minutes longer than it needs to, and the entire film runs easily twenty minutes longer than it needed to. Honestly, what happened to the days of the ninety minute comedy? Are they gone for good?
Overall, I would say that unless you're really hard up for some laughs, just wait for We're The Millers to hit home video. It's a mildly amusing diversion, but doesn't pack enough laughs to merit a running time that close to two hours, and the characters aren't even fun or interesting enough to want to spend that much time with. Their arcs are patently predictable and the whole film just reeks of being completely inessential. Apart from the fact that it's likely the first film whose plot revolves around marijuana in which I can't recall a single soul smoking any, the film doesn't tread any new ground, and frankly just isn't worth paying more than five or six bucks to see.
GO Rating: 2/5
[Photos via BoxOfficeMojo]