Better to get a Bud then watch The Millers
Comedy is laughing at the tragedy that befalls others. But when that tragedy has been set up for the purpose of making us laugh it loses its appeal. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s (The Mysteries of Pittsburg, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) "We're the Millers" is a movie that when pitched must have seemed like a solid idea for a comedy. But it was filmed as though it was going to be seen during a primetime line-up with other television sitcoms. As a movie it doesn’t have any narrative flow. Whatever edge a story about a marijuana dealer, a stripper, a runaway and an awkward teenager who collaborate to move drugs into this country might have had has been lost.
David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) is a thirty-something marijuana dealer who has made a good living doing something he’s done on the side since college. Unfortunately, David involves himself in an altercation involving a runaway girl, Casey (Emma Roberts), and some hooligans and his profits and savings are robbed. He owes his supplier, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms), putting him at Brad’s mercy. David has no options but to accept Brad’s assignment to transfer a small shipment of marijuana from Mexico back to Denver. How he does it is up to David but there is a time limit.
Lacking ingenuity, David is inspired by a couple driving through Denver in a motorhome. His plan is to go to Mexico disguised as a tourist vacationing with his family. He shaves, gets a haircut and shops for touristy clothes influenced by primetime sitcoms and the “Simpsons.” Using cash he recruits Casey, Kenny (Will Poulter) – a latch-key teenager who hasn’t seen his mother in a week – and his next door neighbor Rose (Jennifer Aniston), who happens to be a stripper, to be his family. They set off on their expedition. The rest is easily figured out. They make it into Mexico without a hitch. All is smooth when they arrive at the drug lord’s compound and the “small” shipment fills up their RV. They start their journey back and have to overcome a break down, the border patrol, the drug lord wanting his shipment back and the company of another traveling motorhome family.
The frustration that builds from watching We’re the Millers comes from the tip-offs before the jokes. The spider that crawls into a fruit basket and stays put for half the movie until it’s convenient for it to crawl up the leg and into the shorts of Kenny. Kenny gets a lesson on the proper way to kiss a girl from both his imitation sister and mother while his phony dad takes pictures so it doesn’t come as a surprise when the object of his affection walks in on them. There are four credited screenwriters – Bob Fisher, Steve Faber (both screenwriters for The Wedding Crashers), Sean Anders (Mr. Popper’s Penguins) and John Morris (Hot Tub Time Machine)- and yet no one seemed to feel that a low level drug dealer with a runaway, a stripper and a naïve teenage boy could produce some cutting edge humor. The Wedding Crashers had more of an edge than We’re the Millers. But to be fair, the screenwriters are not the ones in charge of the movie’s production. I’m sure the studio wanted their main stars to be in as funny a movie as possible, so they sent the word down to make sure there were as many comedy skits as possible to get their money’s worth from their stars.
Ms. Aniston, Mr. Sudeikis, Ms. Roberts and Mr. Poulter do a commendable job with the script they were given. They seem to be having a good time, which makes sitting through the skits less painful. It is also a sign that Mr. Thurber let his stars have free reign. It would have been nice if Mr. Thurber took this movie by the reins and asked his screenwriters to make the narrative flow. The four characters don’t want to be with each other – maybe with the exception of Kenny who is looking for any kind of attention – but get talked into this crusade by David only because of the money he offers them. Being locked up in an RV with these odd characters should be enough fodder for comedic situations without having to set up poor gags.
The most intriguing character is Rose. She elicits many questions. For one, how is she not able to pay rent being a stripper? The motivating factor which makes David’s proposition desirable is that she is evicted from her apartment. Rose is fortyish, okay, let’s say in her late thirties, whose been stripping for a while. She is attractive, smart and has survival instincts so you would think she would be working at the most popular gentlemen’s club in Denver. Why doesn’t she have the money to pay her rent? It’s an obvious question that’s a major glare in the story. There could have been all sorts of other factors to have set Rose off on the trip. She is an intriguing character for the fact that the screenwriters write her as someone who has smarts but uses her body to make a living. Mr. Thurber didn’t do much directing with Ms. Aniston because she played the role as though Rachel Green became that stripper. The movie would have benefited if Mr. Thurber and Ms. Aniston had explored the darker and edgier side of Rose. Ms. Aniston has done it before and was more exciting to watch when she played complicated characters in Friends with Money and Horrible Bosses.
Instead We’re the Millers would be better seen on TBS or TNT right after an episode of Friends where it would answer the question of what ever happened to Rachel?