The Movie Man; "We're the Millers" predictable but still funny
August 27. 2013. By Tim Fak, Like much of the rest of our community, it was a very busy weekend this week at The Logan County Herald. We tried to bring you all the best Art & Balloon Festival coverage possible, and if I may toot the company horn for just a moment, I think we did a pretty good job. In the midst of all this excitement and commotion, the Movie Man was at his usual post, working feverishly to bring you another review. Well, maybe it wasn’t so feverish, but hey, I like the sound of it, and incidentally I also liked this week’s film: “We’re the Millers”, a broad and cheerfully offensive comedy that falls somewhere toward the high end of this year’s comedy pack.
“We’re the Millers” centers on David Clark, a small time drug dealer who finds himself in hot water with his supplier after he’s mugged for his drug money. In time honored fashion, his only way to square his debt is by agreeing to smuggle even more drugs in from Mexico for his employers. Desperate for a way to complete his mission without getting pinched by the border guards, he concocts a complicated scheme to assemble a fake family, on the premise that he will then no longer draw suspicion. To this end he recruits his out of work stripper neighbor to play his wife, and the nerdy kid down the hall and a runaway street tough to play his teenaged children. Obviously, none of these people is suited to play the part of a typical middle class family on vacation, and that of course is where the comedy comes in. The rest of the film is a road trip comedy as this gang of misfits tries to blend in and smuggle the drugs without arousing suspicion. Basically, what you’ve got is Vacation with stoner jokes mixed in.
Clark is played by Jason Sudeikis who puts his SNL honed comedic timing to good use here. He’s got just the right kind of slovenly slacker appeal to be believable, yet also looks convincing in his “disguise” persona which suits the needs of the film rather well. Opposite him is Jennifer Aniston as his neighbor/fake wife and is mostly consigned to the straight man role here. This too, is fairly effective as we get a character who’s useful to the operation in that she seems to be the only one who actually understands how not to appear suspicious. The straight man is often the hardest role in comedy, but we’ve got a pretty solid one in this film. Emma Roberts and Will Poulter play the two teens and are mostly there for the kind of bickering interplay we get from these types of characters in comedies. Rounding out the cast are Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as a bumbling DEA agent and his wife who befriend the “family” on their trip and Ed Helms as a ludicrous drug kingpin with a hideout worthy of a James Bond Villain
Now we come to that familiar part of all my comedy reviews where I ask the essential question: was it funny? In the case of “We’re the Millers” I’d have to say yes it was. Most of the humor is stupid, and the situations are very predictable, but I did laugh often, and so did most of the crowded theater around me. That said, I did walk away with the feeling that the funny to not funny joke ratio may have been a little off, as there were a quite a few groaners in the film as well as a few jokes that bombed outright. In the final accounting however, the parts that are funny are more than enough to compensate for the misfires. It’s just that a bit more consistency would’ve been nice.
I also have to say that “We’re the Millers” is probably not the film for those looking for something fresh. It’s a common complaint of mine that a lot of recent films seem to be cobbled together out of bits of older (and usually better) films, and this film is a textbook case of that. Everything is exceedingly predictable, and I don’t think there’s one truly original idea or gag in the entire film. Still, I guess there is some comfort in familiarity, and “We’re the Millers” is a pretty fair use of most of its material, no matter how worn.
Despite these flaws though, “We’re the Millers” does take on a certain charm. It understands something that a lot of modern comedies don’t: that to get us to root for the characters, we have to care about them. It avoids, for the most part, mean spirited humor about its characters and really succeeds at making them people I wanted to watch, no matter how goofy the premise. It’s the difference between laughing at people and laughing with them. Too many comedies today opt for the former, and it always leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
“We’re the Millers” is rated R for language and some strong sexual content. The vast majority of the film’s humor is sexual in nature, often explicitly and crudely so, and the film also features the best comedic use of frontal male nudity since Forgetting Sarah Marshall. If that’s the sort of thing you’re into, this one’s probably right up your alley, but if adult content offends you, you’re definitely going to want to give this one a pass.
Overall, I did enjoy “We’re the Millers”. It’s not the best comedy I’ve seen this year (“The Heat” is still the reigning champ on that score), but I get a couple fairly solid hours of laughs out of it. It’s rude, crude and just a bit overly derivative for my tastes, but if you’re looking for some adult themed laughs you could do a lot worse.
Rated 3 stars out of a possible 4.