Wednesday, August 7, 2013

We're the Millers (2013)

In the not too distant past, I've often often lamented seeing movies late in the Summer.  I know I've mentioned this before, but August and September are usually the dumping grounds for stuff the studios don't think can compete or hold up against the blockbusters.  However, there's been a recent trend of films I've looked forward to, or even enjoyed more than the bigger films of Summer.  I don't know if it's that they aren't marketed well, simply fly under the radar, or the Summer has become so saturated that otherwise decent movies are getting pushed back.  We're the Millers continues this trend.

The trailer for We're the Millers actually had me rolling my eyes at the premise a bit, but it worked in the context of the film.  David (Jason Sudeikis) is a small-time, successful drug dealer in Denver, but he gets into a little trouble with his supplier, Brad (Ed Helms), after a robbery.  Brad makes a him a deal: smuggle some drugs across the border and he'll wipe the slate clean.  When struggling for a way to pull this off, David is inspired by a family in a mobile home.  He figures that if he can pull off the appearance of a squeaky clean family, the border patrol won't give them another look.  David doesn't have a family though, so he recruits a dorky kid in his building, Kenny (Will Poulter); a runaway, Casey (Emma Roberts); and finally a stripper, Rose (Jennifer Aniston).  David and Rose have butt heads in the past, so she wants no part of the plan, but reluctantly comes along when she runs into money trouble of her own.

Once they make it to Mexico, they find that the 'smidge' of marijuana they thought they were picking up is actually a huge amount.  Brad also neglected to mention that the pot wasn't meant for them in the first place, so now a drug lord (Tomer Sisley) is after them to get it back.  Does drug smuggling in movies ever go off without a hitch?  If actual drug smuggling was this much of a pain in the ass, I'm at a loss as to why anyone would even try it anymore.

Along the way, the Millers meet up with the Fitzgeralds, a seemingly straight-laced couple played by Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn.  If you've seen the trailers, you already know that there's more to them.  I was a little worried about how their characters were going to play out, but I thought Offerman and Hahn were both funny.  I don't think Nick Offerman can do anything wrong at this point though.  Would someone please write a movie with Offerman as the lead?  I'd go for a Ron Swanson movie.

It's a high-concept film, but it's an example of when you assemble a great cast that has good chemistry, and they sell the material, it can work.  Jason Sudeikis is perfect for this type of film with his smart-ass delivery, and he carries Millers well.  I've always enjoyed when he goes into full-on 'dick mode'.  I even got a little bit of Clark Griswald from him, particularly towards the end.  Jennifer Aniston played off Sudeikis well, and showed that she still has her comedy chops after all these years.  Has it really been almost ten years since Friends ended?  Anyway, I like when she doesn't play it safe or plays against type, like she did in Horrible Bosses.  Plus, I'd like to drink from the same fountain of youth that she's been drinking from.  Although, if you pay attention closely, you'll see a body double was used in a few shots.  It's a dead giveaway whenever they cut away and it comes back to a shot of the backside or their head is no longer in the frame.  This isn't meant to be a slam on Aniston or the film, but just an observation.

I also enjoyed Emma Roberts and Will Poulter as the rest of the 'family'.  It was nice to see that they were actually given their own arcs, rather than be throwaway characters without any depth.  You're given reason to care about the Millers, and it's believable why they would bond in such a short time.  You'll also see from the outtakes during the credits that the cast clearly had a lot fun making We're the Millers and I think that comes across in the final product.

There are a few cameos from recognizable comedy actors.  I especially enjoyed Ken Marino as Rose's boss at the strip club, and he has few great lines.  Luis Guzman and Thomas Lennon also appear.  While in a smaller role, I got a kick out of Ed Helms, who seemed to be really enjoying himself playing more of a douchebag that we're used to seeing.

While I didn't find myself rolling on the floor, there were plenty of good laugh-out-loud moments throughout.  I generally like snarky, sarcastic dialog and this is full of it.  There's something about the character interaction I found natural, but maybe it's because I tend to a pretty sarcastic guy myself.  There are some siller and raunchier moments, but I felt it all balanced out nicely.  We're the Millers is also an example of why I appreciate an R-rated comedy simply for the fact that the trailer can't ruin a lot of the better lines and moments.

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (try saying that name five times fast), he allowed the cast enough room to play around a little.  He also kept the pace moving at a good clip, as I didn't realize that this clocks in at 110 minutes.  That's usually around the point where I start feeling a movie's length, especially with a predictable comedy, but I didn't notice until after.  Thurber was the director of Dodgeball, as well as the old Terry Tate, Office Linebacker short, so I'm surprised to see that he's been inactive in recent years.  Here's to hoping he gets more shots at directing comedy.

I was also surprised to see there were four writers (Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, and John Morris).  That many is usually a bad sign, but it didn't seem to hurt the film too much.  Fisher and Faber are credited with the story, so I wonder if Anders and Morris were brought in to punch it up.  Collectively these guys have written films like Wedding Crashers, Hot Tub Time Machine, Sex Drive, and She's Out of My League, so the comedy pedigree is there.

As I mentioned earlier, We're the Millers is predictable and gets a little cheesy towards the end.  It wraps up a little too cleanly, and there are a few spots in the story where the Millers are let off the hook by convenience.  They also had to show that even though David is a drug dealer, he has rules like he won't sell to kids.  Had they been able to stay away from some of the standard cliches or take some chances, it could have been a real stand out.

It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but We're the Millers has enough laughs to still be a good time at the movies.  Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston are a duo that works well together, and despite the predictable and cliched plot, it hits way more than it misses.  I recommend it as a matinee.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

1 comment:

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