Comedies often suffer or benefit from comparison, particularly given the tendency to overuse certain performers and tropes. In the case of We’re the Millers — released two days early, this past Wednesday, for no clear reason — the suffering is in contrast to its two clearest progenitors.
The 400-Word Review: We're the Millers
By Sean Collier
August 12, 2013
Happy-go-lucky drug dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) is thoroughly robbed when dimwitted young neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter) clues some thugs in on David’s occupation. Owing his supplier (Ed Helms) much more than he can repay, he agrees to shepherd some weed from Mexico into the States. He recruits Kenny, neighbor/stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston) and local street teen Casey (Emma Roberts) to pose as his white-bread family out for a family vacation, and we’ve got a premise.
The formula is a simple addition of Horrible Bosses and Due Date (itself an uncredited remake of Planes, Trains and Automobiles). From Bosses, Millers gets its central joke: high crimes from the un-criminally inclined tend to go awry. (It also gets two stars, Aniston and Sudeikis, from that film.) From Due Date, it gets the trappings of the modern road comedy: wacky supporting characters, irritating travel companions and an exasperated lead.
Compare it to those films — neither perfect, but both effective, funny and rewatchable — and We’re the Millers flounders. Compare it to this year’s batch of comedic misses, though — duds like The Hangover Part III, The Internship, Identity Thief, The Heat, and Admission come to mind — and We’re the Millers is easily funny enough.
Credit goes to Sudeikis, who is consistently charming enough to draw laughs out of the so-so, group-think script (pasted together by the combined writing teams behind Wedding Crashers and Hot Tub Time Machine). Aniston has never found her groove as a comedic presence on the big screen; while she plays along and doesn’t detract, she’s clearly uncomfortable with roles like these.
The saving grace is a mid-movie subplot starring Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as the sort of couple that David and Rose are aping; the real and fake families meet at the Mexican border, and the added histrionics required to maintain the ruse keep the middle act of the film moving. Offerman and Hahn (along with Molly Quinn as their daughter) are talented, funny and lively, in a stretch where the movie might’ve dragged. Without them, We’re the Millers would’ve been too light; with them, it’s good enough.
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark