Entertainment » Movies

We’re the Millers

by Padraic Maroney
Contributor
Wednesday Aug 7, 2013
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A scene from ’We’re the Millers’
A scene from ’We’re the Millers’  

Let’s be honest. Most of the movies Jennifer Aniston appears in will never be considered cinematic masterpieces. Typically, they range from unwatchable ("Derailed") to forgettable ("Rock Star"). Everyone’s favorite friend does manage to sneak in a surprise every once and awhile, but usually they tend to be more dramatic turns, like her roles in "The Good Girl" or "Marley and Me." Her latest comedic offering, "We’re The Millers," breaks that mold, as it is an entertaining escape from the summer blockbusters and offers more laughs than it probably should.

The premise could be used for a sitcom: David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) is a drug dealer who gets his entire supply stolen while trying to help his young neighbor save a runaway from street thugs. As a way to make good to his supplier, he agrees to smuggle a "smidge" of drugs across the Mexican border. But, to draw attention away from his activities, he hires a rag-tag group of locals to pose as his family. As might be expected, hijinks ensue, including a case of mistaken identity, detours and a run in with a friendly DEA agent and his family.

At face value, "We’re The Millers" looks as if it’s another generic comedy. But shortly after the lights in the theater went down, something odd happened: On more than one occasion, the laughter was so loud you couldn’t hear what the follow-up dialogue was after the punch lines. The film is one of those rare comedies that doesn’t make apologizes for being politically incorrect and doesn’t try to beat its audience over the head with an inevitable love story or life lesson. Its job is to make you laugh, and the filmmakers will go to great lengths to accomplish their mission -- even if they have to randomly insert a CGI orca eating a dolphin. From outtakes during the end credits, it seems that the cast was given the freedom to improvise as they saw fit.

Much of the laughs comes from the cast being game for whatever is thrown at them. Aniston and Sudeikis are re-teaming for their third film, and it feels as though they have developed an easy rapport, which leads to more comfortable bantering here. Ratcheting up the laughs are Nick Offerman (TV’s "Parks and Recreation") and Kathryn Hahn ("Anchorman") as a salt of the Earth couple who are looking to put spark back into their marriage. The quartet of experienced comedians are in top form here as they turn simple lines into comedic zingers. The cast’s weak link is Ed Helms, who is too over the top as the drug kingpin who sends to David to Mexico. Otherwise, this is a film filled with zany characters grounded by the actors playing them.

While the cast is able to deliver the laughs with punchlines, some of the biggest laughs actually come from physical comedy bits. Will Poulter, whose magnificent eyebrows get plenty of ridicule throughout the film, proves especially adept at garnering laughs without uttering a word as the romantically stunted Kenny. Between confused facial expressions and a sight gag that is better left unspoiled, Poulter makes a name for himself as a comedic force. It also doesn’t hurt that he is able to bust out the rap from TLC’s "Waterfalls" effortlessly.

A handful of writers are credited with crafting the script for the film. Usually, this means a screenwriter stew was made of the script, and at times it feels like that might have happened here. While the film never begins to drag too much, it does feel like some things were thrown for the heck of it. The lazy plotting of the film -- "the Millers" are able to drive up to the drug compound and receive the shipment, no questions asked; similarly, they don’t get much resistance when crossing the border -- further brings into question why the writers felt the need to keep adding, rather than fleshing out, the situations and characters that are already inherit to the script.

"We’re the Millers" succeeds more because of the cast than anything else. The jokes come at a rapid pace, but much like the family it follows, the film is only cosmetic. It doesn’t try to develop much below the visual facade, rather preferring to keep the attention on the film’s almost episodic journey. Nevertheless, this is one journey you’re likely to remember when perusing Jennifer Aniston’s filmography.

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