The Review: 'We're the Millers' Flirts with Darkness and Taboos

The Review: 'We're the Millers' Flirts with Darkness and Taboos

Aug 09, 2013

A script is written. It's a funny script. It's full of strange, exaggerated facsimiles of humanity on a journey that's clearly outside the structures of reality. It flirts with darkness and taboos and it begs for daring comic actors to push themselves past the bounds of safety. It's a solidly adult comedy, the kind August release dates have come to treat well. And then that script is tampered with and altered by powers above and beyond the reach of the creative forces hired to make the film in the first place. Then it's directed and acted into a mutated, practically toothless noncomedy about the importance of family, a film where Jennifer Aniston plays a stripper who works while wearing a bra, where a drug dealer played by Jason Sudeikis has an aww-sadz moment in the first five minutes when he thinks wistfully about how he never settled down and made babies.

Swell. Thanks movie. I got out of the pool and put down the drink and stopped enjoying my summer long enough for you to teach me lessons about the dangers of weed and the ruination awaiting the childless and unmarried. Good work.

The premise is appropriately high concept. Sudeikis and Aniston team up -- alongside a runaway (Emma Roberts) and a geeky, abandoned neighbor boy (Will Poulter) -- as a fake family on a fake vacation to Mexico. There they'll retrieve a huge shipment of dope, smuggle it back to Colorado, collect a nice payday and go their separate ways. As it must, mayhem ensues. Well, it should have been mayhem, anyway. They run afoul of an angry drug lord (Tomer Sisley) and a tarantula while accidentally befriending a DEA officer (Nick Offerman) and an idiotic young carny (Mark L. Young). But these aren't Breaking Bad-level obstacles turned on their heads and made hilarious. These are goofy hurdles of the sort that might befall Kevin James on any rerun of King of Queens, a drug sitcom with some swear words and one scene featuring an arachnid attack on a pair of prosthetic testicles. Eventually, everyone comes to understand that this group must somehow form a family and blah-blah-yawn-blah-I'd-be-proud-to-be-your-real-father.

We're The Millers is well-stocked with funny, talented people doing their best with what they've been given: Aniston makes for good angry-funny when she's allowed, Sudeikis trades on his all-American persona to make sly detours whenever he can, Offerman, Katherine Hahn and Ed Helms are sturdy, idiosyncratic support and, as the moronic carnival employee, Young steals every screen moment he gets ("I work the Monkey Maze... it's a terrifying death trap but for little kids."). There are even enough laughs to warrant not changing the channel too quickly when it finds its final resting place on a cable network devoted to films soon forgotten. But those laughs come with padding and caution and bloat, condescension and moralizing and timidity, none of which have any place in a film where a bickering drug-smuggling "family" winds up making out with each other. Pick a side and have the courage of your perverted convictions. Otherwise, why bother making a movie at all?


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