“We’re the Millers” looks like it started out with some clever ideas and got assembled by committee.
Aw heck, it’s got some funny moments that are worth some of your time and you get to see Jennifer Aniston doing a strip tease, not too tacky! But overall it’s disappointing.
And do not take your children!
David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) is a pot dealer and has been since college. They’ve obviously made it about pot rather than harder drugs to generate some kind of sympathy for this loser. He deals pretty significant amounts, but the real money is made by his mega-rich boss and former college chum Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms).
This seems somehow appropriate. Pot is the drug of choice of perpetual adolescents who don’t actively destroy themselves, but never seem to get anywhere in life either.
David gets all his stash and cash ripped off while doing something conspicuously noble, saving a runaway girl Casey (Emma Roberts) from getting robbed and maybe worse.
You’d think a street-wise dealer would have 1) put his stash away before confronting the hoods (And why is he carrying so much cash and weed anyway?) or 2) just offered them some to let her alone. Never mind.
Brad wants his money, but sees a way out if Dave will head South of the Border and bring back a major shipment in an RV. As in serious time in a Mexican prison major.
Dave gets an idea so brilliant you wonder why he’s not the boss. Recruit a very, very middle-class looking family to come along as cover. (I’d tell you mine but I’m hoping for a big-time offer.)
The wife: Dave’s neighbor Sarah (Jennifer Aniston), a stripper who quit her job in high dudgeon rather than take the next step down into actual prostitution.
The son: Kenny (Will Poulter), Dave’s neighbor whose mother left to go out with friends – a week ago.
The daughter: Casey the homeless girl.
Dave’s first order of business, get a haircut so he doesn’t look so obviously like a dealer and why didn’t he do that when he was wandering around the street with a man-purse full of pot and cash?
Complications ensue. They pick up the load in the RV – except it turns out they’ve unwittingly ripped off a powerful Mexican drug lord. Oops!
Get back across the border with an RV loaded with weed – and run into a vacationing couple who turn out to be a DEA agent (Nick Offerman), his flighty and somewhat kinky wife (Kathryn Hahn), and their beautiful redhaired daughter (Molly Quinn) who Kenny falls hard for.
OK there is plenty of good material here for a decent comedy of errors. The trope of being chased by bad guys while unable to go to the police can be used either for thrillers or comedy oddly enough.
It also falls within the “fake family bonding” genre, wherein a group of unrelated people are forced by circumstance to assume family roles and grow into them.
The acting is decent, much of the dialog is witty, and it does succeed in achieving some moments of knuckle-biting suspense. It just doesn’t hang together, and that’s all about the writing.
Dave’s character transformation is all over the map. He’s goes from unambitious loser to master planner. He does something inspiringly noble at the very beginning, and then tries to persuade Kenny to submit to gay rape to bribe a Mexican cop a few scenes later. Just a little after that he’s offering to die for the people he dragged into this situation.
Sarah is a hard-as-nails stripper, who somehow has kept away from actual prostitution and recoils in horror from it. She talks like a foul-mouthed hooker on occasion then goes icky-sticky gooey protective of the kids.
The narc Don starts out as incredibly dense and kind of kinky-weird, but comes through with courage and masterful fighting skills when needed.
Don’s wife Edie however remains in ditsy character throughout.
Out of this they’ve got to pull a happy ending, where the characters become real family or it wouldn’t be a comedy. “We’re the Millers” does that with an admittedly clever plot twist.
One has to wonder about the meaning of that. In a time where we have so many dysfunctional, so many broken families, was this intended as a message of hope? Yes you too can create a wonderful family out of the most hopeless situation.
If it was, I just wish they’d been more convincing.
If you see this on DVD or cable you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more than if you spend $8 apiece for it plus popcorn.
Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.