We're the Millers
We’re the Millers is framed so eccentrically, I’m unsure as to whether it’s throwing a spanner at the mainstream, or just misguided market research. It begins with a series of YouTube clips (which don’t add to the characterisation) and ends with a selection of outtakes (which removethe characterisation). Furthermore, the plot wraps up rather neatly after about 30 minutes to create a resolved one-act comedy – before adding an hour of deleted scenes and a pre-credits gag reel.
Of course, the journey is the story. Most of We’re the Millers focuses on a road trip organised by Jason Sudeikis to collect marijuana from Mexico on behalf of his obnoxious boss, Ed Helms. To diminish suspicions at the border, he organises a fake family out of a loquacious stripper (Jennifer Aniston), a foul-mouthed homeless teenager (Emma Roberts) and a naïve 18-year-old neighbour (Will Poulter).
The funniest moments come from placing the four in a confined RV van; they’re forced to smile at strangers, while bickering behind closed doors. The concept clearly has potential, especially with Rawson Marshall Thurber’s direction allowing loose performances and bratty chemistry via in-fighting. Roberts also seems remarkably enthused at finally swearing in a role.
What overshadows the comedy is a rundown of contrivances and instances of dumbed down humour that betray established personalities. With four credited screenwriters, inconsistencies arise, particularly in Sudeikis; his slacker likeability frequently oscillates with sleaze and selfishness. Really, the cast twist into playing up whatever cheap gags turn up – note how Poulter swings between shy and daring depending on the next punchline.
The filmmakers don’t seem that bothered, given how Sudeikis breaks the fourth wall to wink at the audience (during one of many gratuitous shots of Aniston dancing in her underwear). Similarly extraneous sequences perpetuate the comedy’s second half, with subplots awkwardly thrown in. Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn are a recurring example; an irritating, flirtatious couple who slow down the narrative with weak humour.
A stronger edit would simply be the first 30 minutes – without spoiling anything, there is an obvious ending point. Beyond that, there’s a sour taste as unnecessary stereotypes are brought to the fore. For instance, Mexicans are either drug dealers or illegal immigrants; every female character is defined by her sexual appetite in a way that makes it very clear the director and writing staff are all men.
Underneath is a darker, funnier comedy that toys with the concept of pretending to be a family. The best example comes from Sudeikis essentially pimping out his “son” to bribe a policeman, or when Roberts and Aniston take turns to teach Poulter how to kiss with tongues; it’s uncomfortable enough to suggest the film has created at least some sense of togetherness.
But these moments are hard to spot when so much time is dedicated to throwaway external characters, gross out humour and tacked-on sentimentality. Instead of pretending they’re a family, it should have pretended to be a complete film.
United States of America
110 mins approx
Rawson Marshall Thurber