2013 really has given us mostly disappointing comedies coming from the States (The Hangover Part III, Grown Ups 2, The Internship etc), so it’s quite refreshing to see that We’re the Millers offers a slight change of pace – even if doesn’t hit the mark every time.
From the writing team behind Wedding Crashers and the director of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, We’re the Millers tells the story of David Clark (Jason Sudeikis), a small time pot dealer who gets roped into smuggling some marijuana from Mexico by his former college friend Brad (played by Ed Helms, who puts more effort into this bit part than he did the entire runtime of The Hangover Part III). But in order not to arouse any suspicion while crossing the border, he enlists the help of stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), a virgin loser who lives in his apartment by the name of Kenny (Will Poulter) and runaway teen Casey (Emma Roberts) to pretend to be his family.
We’re the Millers works because it never tries too hard to do anything different. It’s story, while pretty original, is very simplistic and director Rawson Marshall Thurber treats it as such. None of the characters (save for Kenny) really go through any growth or development and the pacing of the movie allows for each comedy set piece to flow into the next comedy set piece. This could make We’re the Millers seem lazy and unimaginative, but the jokes are so funny and the characters are so likeable that it all comes together quite nicely.
And the film is really funny. It easily passes the Mark Kermode Six Laugh Test in the first twenty minutes and it doesn’t really let up from there. Not every joke works and some fall really flat, but when it gets it right it can produce some hearty belly laughs. This is furthered by some great comedic performances from all of the main cast with Poulter shining as Kenny. However the show is stolen once again by the superb Nick Offerman who really can do no wrong no matter what role he’s put in.
A lot of the promotion of the film has been around Friends golden girl Jennifer Aniston playing a stripper (it’s all anyone is really talking about when it comes to the movie) and one could argue that the filmmakers simply used this ploy to attract a male audience because they can perv on the former Rachel Green. However, We’re the Millers never explicitly glorifies the stripping industry and, if anything, actively suggests women avoid it. In fact, Rose spends her stripping scene trying to find a way out of it so she can help her “family”.
But even when a film doesn’t try too hard to be great, it can still fail in places. For starters, We’re the Millers clocks in at just under 2 hours and it really feels like it. Just like The Internship, it would have served better as a 90 minute movie. There isn’t enough plot to satisfy this running time and that isn’t helped by the fact that a good 70% of the movie is in the trailer. It’s a real shame that a lot of the We’re the Miller’s big laughs were spoilt by the TV spots etc as a lot of them didn’t bring the reaction they should have.
What’s really funny about this though is that, despite its overlong running time, the last act is incredibly rushed and feels tacked on just to bring about a resolution. Nothing is really gained or learnt and the movie just flatly ends. It’s quite disappointing as you grow to like these characters so much and you want to see the payoff they’ve been building too, but it doesn’t really amount to anything.
We’re the Millers is not cinematic gold and it’s not going to end up at the top of anyone’s list this year. But it’s a lot better than most of the comedies of 2013 and its cast of characters are at least likeable. It has some great comedic performances from all involved (Offerman in particular), some great jokes and a good amount of heart. We’re the Millers is probably above rental quality, but you shouldn’t rush out to see it.