David Burke (Jason Sudeikis) is a small-time pot dealer whose luck runs out when local punks steal his stash, leaving him in major debt to his ruthless supplier, Brad (Ed Helms). In order to clear it he must smuggle Brad’s latest shipment – a ‘smidge-and a half’ of Marijuana - in from a cartel in Mexico. Needing a guise to serve as a distraction, David convinces his neighbours, a recently-evicted stripper named Rose (Jennifer Anniston), an abandoned teen, Kenny (Will Poulter), and a local street-dweller, Casey (Emma Roberts), to pose with him as ‘The Millers’, a regular family vacationing in an RV for the Fourth of July weekend. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (writer/director of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story), We’re the Millers is not going to be remembered as a comedy classic, but one can’t deny it has ample laughs.
Whether it is Anniston gripping a blanketed weed-baby when standing opposite border patrol and an aggressive sniffer dog (amusing) or Poulter having his testicle bitten by a hairy tarantula (dumb) this film maintains an erratic energy. Often it is the improvised dialogue – the actors bounce crude insults off one another – that works far better than the staged gags.
Former SNL sketch man Sudeikis is a naturally funny guy and has proven to be a capable comic performer despite being involved in some films I didn’t much care for (Hall Pass and Horrible Bosses come to mind). Though David’s desperation results in him selfishly abandoning his companions at times, he is largely a charming, likable lowlife who has failed to evolve into a responsible adult.
The rest of the cast is solid. Anniston (looking fantastic) has effective chemistry alongside Sudeikis. Only agreeing to take part due to her financial situation, she has endured her share of pain and is an intelligent and very capable woman. Brit actor Poulter evokes sympathy through his portrayal of a dorky kid with poor self-esteem who is sadly willing to surrender himself to anything, while Roberts, a pierced, iPhone-obsessed, smart mouth punk, has her moments. Helms, Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman provide big laughs in supporting roles too.
This unlikely quartet overcompensate their guise, and are expectedly at odds. The film’s final act is shorter on laughs, more interested in building the relationships between the characters, which sends the film down a more predictable path. But at least some time is spent attempting to justify these developments rather than materializing them out of formulaic expectations. This is a manufactured Hollywood comedy through and though, but their misadventures offer some surprises and there is enough vulgarity and raw edginess to lift it above the bland, clichéd road movie it could have been.
There are ethnic stereotypes which are, well, offensive, but the dynamic of the generic American family (including gender roles) is toyed with amusingly. Though the humour is R-rated, there is some welcomed heart to the relationships; David and Rose naturally connect as concerned parents for the well being of Casey, and David is coerced into that awkward father-son chat with Kenny.
As a comedy the laugh quota is surprisingly high (including a terrific blooper reel during the closing credits, which I am happy to say features laughs that aren’t THAT far superior to the rest of the film). Despite enduring some weak material along the way, We’re the Millers offers a twist on an oft-tried premise and the cast seems to have fun. For this reason it consistently entertains and is worthy of a soft recommendation.
Andrew @buckle22 Buckle
Released in Australia 15th of August 2013
Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.