24 August 2013

Movie Review: We're the Millers


We're the Millers
2013, 110mins, 15
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber 
Writer (s): Rawson Marshall Thurber, John Morris, Sean Anders 
Cast includes: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter, Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn 
UK Release Date: 23rd August 2013

“We’re the Millers” has been in production since 2006, the feature having endured several false starts over the years (Steve Buscemi was attached at one point), with a bevy of writers, actors and film-makers failing to get the concept beyond the early stages of pre-production. Now in its completed form, “We’re the Millers” feels its age. That’s not to say it’s unfunny or worthless, but this raunchy road-trip picture would definitely have played more interestingly 8-years ago, at the height of Bush’s Presidential onus on middle-class America and before the recent boom in R-rated comedy. As chilled summer entertainment goes it’s affable enough, but there’s nothing in the film’s script or execution that lingers in the memory for any longer than a few hours after the theatre lights come up.

David (Jason Sudeikis) hasn’t done much growing up since college, he still deals weed for a living and fritters away his days in the style of a disinterested teenager. When his stash and savings are pilfered, David finds himself indebted to his supplier Brad(Ed Helms), who in turn forces the hapless dealer to execute a job for him. Brad needs a “smidge” of pot moved from Mexico to the States – offering David reprieve and an extra $10000 for his efforts. However David is convinced on his own he doesn't stand a chance; resulting in him hiring dorky Kenny (Will Poulter), homeless teen Casey (Emma Roberts) and reluctant stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as a wholesome all-American family named the Millers. Loaded into an RV, the unlikely group traverse the boarder, only to discover that the quantity of marijuana Brad needs moved exceeds his initial projections.

Based on the level of energy supplied by the cast and the amusing blooper reel tucked away just before the credits, it looks liked “We’re the Millers” was a hoot to make. There was probably more laughter during 110 minutes on set than there will be in an average cinema exhibiting the feature, always a slightly aggravating fact for the paying audience to digest. It’s not that I want productions to adapt a grim, gormless atmosphere during the creative process, but it’s nice to know that as a financial patron we’re getting the lion’s share merriment. The movie harbours a consistently up-tempo and jubilant momentum, which keeps “We’re the Millers” likable. However the gags are hit and miss, a combination of outdated tropes and flimsy improvisations quelling the overall sharpness of the product. Based on the outtakes it looks like Aniston and company enjoyed an unending stream of gayety whilst piecing the thing together – only sporadic chunks of this translating to the viewing experience. Maybe it’s slack and unfair criticism to rant on about something so menial, a complaint admittedly distant from an isolated critique of “We’re the Millers” as seasonal confection. Still, the whole notion grinds my gears. I won’t make apologies goddamit.

The pedigree of film-makers on the project is better than average. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber should have his name eternally engraved onto an important tablet or something for his work on 2004’s delightful “Dodgeball”, whilst writers Sean Anders and John Morris have penned a handful of notable R-rated goof-fests. As a result there are definite laughs – it is important to stipulate amidst my gripes that “We’re the Millers” is pretty funny – but there’s nothing overly acerbic or inventive to get excited about. Between them these guys have given us Steve the Pirate, White Goodman, the insanely titled “Hot Tub Time Machine” and the most bizarre incest twist of all time in last summer’s “That’s My Boy”. So why does “We’re the Millers” feel so ordinary? The quality of the material is perfectly acceptable, but I wouldn't go much further than that, the movie more likely to draw smirks and titters than major guffaws. Sudeikis has a nice way with delivery and Aniston continues to indicate her talents are better put to use alongside edgier, smuttier material; so y’know giggles are forthcoming. I’m certain I laughed and did so semi-regularly. I just can’t remember at what.

At 110 minutes the movie is much too long, but some forgiveness is due on the basis that “We’re the Millers” actually generates warmth. Thurber does pay attention to the burgeoning familial dynamic from a human perspective, even if he jettisons some opportunity for deconstruction of the nuclear unit along the way. There are a few moments of sincerity throughout the picture – by the end you halfway care for the protagonists – which in the context of modern adult comedy is an admirable achievement. It’s pleasant to see the film at least take sparing moments to nurture its central characters and various chemistries, rather than ramming it all down the viewer’s throat in an over-stuffed wrap-up.

You get what you pay for here. There’s a prosthetic dick, Jennifer Aniston gives an onscreen lap dance and the screenplay provides an ample degree of mirth. There are sections which feel rusty and past their sell by date (I think even in 2006 the days of laughing at a penis just because it’s there were numbered) – and admittedly – the whole thing might have been more satirically relevant when juxtaposed beside the Bush administration’s stance on family. I can’t imagine many will cherish the feature beyond the 110 minutes it takes to consume, but heck that investment -whilst unfavourably drawn out- isn't a total waste. 

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013


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