WE’RE THE MILLERS – The Review
While the Summer may be known for big budget sci-fi action superhero blockbusters, it’s also been the home for big studio comedies, perhaps going all the way back 35 years ago with NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE. As this movie season wraps up we’ve had an equal share of hits (THE HEAT, THIS IS THE END) and misses (THE HANGOVER III, GROWN UPS 2). The same can be said of the lower budget indie comedies with the delightful THE WAY WAY BACK and the dismal GIRL MUST LIKELY. And so, opening this week is WE’RE THE MILLERS which, like the former films, stars several well-known names in TV comedies. And like a couple of them, it also could be a “stoner comedy”. Will spending a couple of hours at the multiplex with THE MILLERS provide a nice mellow buzz, or will this be a harsh “bad trip”? Let’s load up this massive camper…
No one in this flick is actually named Miller. That name belongs to the apartment building where the four main characters live or hang out. We first meet business man on the go David (Jason Sudeikis), a single thirty-something pot dealer. The biz is good, but David feels he may be missing something while being in this young man’s game. His neighbor Rose (Jennifer Aniston) is getting burned out at her job as an “exotic dancer” at an increasingly sleazy “gentlemen’s club”. Another neighbor, eighteen year-old Kenny (Will Poulter) looks up to David, as he hopes for the return of his derelict Mom. And Casey (Emma Roberts) is a street urchin living in the alleys surrounding the Miller Building. One night David and Kenny come to the rescue of Casey when a group of thugs try to rob her. This, in turn, leads to the loss of David’s pot stash and collected cash. This angers David’s supplier, his old college pal Brad (Ed Helms). But he’s got a way for David to make up the difference: run down to Mexico, pick up a “smidge” of pot, and deliver it across the border. David agrees, but wonders how he can lessen the chance of being stopped at the checkpoint by the authorities. A-ha! They wouldn’t look twice at an American family returning from a vacation South of the Border! Soon he enlists Rose, Kenny, and Casey, picks up a massive “Winnebago”-style camper, and drives the newly named “Miller family” to pick up that smidge. It’s a fool-proof plan! I mean nothing could go wrong…right?
A group of terrifically talented actors is led confidently by two pros in TV comedy. From the variety side we have Sudeikis in his first lead role after great work in THE CAMPAIGN and HORRIBLE BOSSES, in addition to recently finishing up a great stint on “Saturday Night Live”. He’s got that fast-talking wiseguy quality while often being insensitive to others, but not really meaning to be cruel, kind of mash-up of Bill Murray and early Chevy Chase. There’s also a straight man mode he enters when someone has said or done something really preposterous, which harkens back further to the Jack Benny reaction into the camera. Aniston’s had more experience as a lead in films, but her choices have been hit (THE GOOD GIRL) and miss (LOVE HAPPENS) after her very successful TV gig on the “Friends” sitcom. Here she starts as a cynical world-weary type who finally lets down her guard to care about others. And she really has those dance moves down. The role of the tough street-savvy Casey is a nice change from the usual good girl roles that Roberts has appeared in recently. The big comic find of the film is Poulter as the lanky,clueless virginal Kenny, who is so funny and endearing, I had no idea that I’d seen him in the last Narnia epic. Helms is doing a twisted version of his upbeat, grinning characters from CEDAR RAPIDS and TV’s “The Office” as this unconventional drug kingpin. There are also wonderful supporting turns by Ken Marino as Rose’s incredibly sleazy ex-boss, Luis Guzman as a frisky crooked cop, along with “Parks and Recreations” vets Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman as a couple who befriend the Millers on the road and turn out to be not as clean-cut and nerdy as they appear.
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY) does his best to keep the story rolling along , but despite his efforts he can’t avoid the third act drag that affects most big screen comedies. Luckily he’s able to pull things together and deliver a couple of big surprises before the final moments. Sure there’s a few clinkers, but the big laughs make up for them (the scene in a mall hair salon is perfection). Actually, the laughter may have drowned out a couple of good bits of dialogue. WE’RE THE MILLERS truly earns its R rating, so if you can handle some raw language, sexual references, and a make-up prosthetic that’s a bit unnerving, then this is a pretty entertaining couple of hours at the multiplex. I didn’t mind squeezing into that crowded camper with this fake family. And I never thought to ask, “Are we there yet?”.
4 Out of 5 Stars