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WE’RE THE MILLERS (2013) review

January 31, 2014

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written by: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders & John Morris

produced by: Chris Bender, Vincent Newman, Tucker Tooley & Happy Walters

directed by:  Rawson Marshall Thurber

rating: R (for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity)

runtime: 110 min.

U.S. release date: August 7, 2013

DVD/Blu-ray release date: November 19, 2013

 

It’s hard to mess up a good road trip movie, thinking of a bunch anywhere from National Lampoon’s Vacation to Little Miss Sunshine and a whole lot in between. Anything can happen on the road, and these movies have surely illustrated that point. It can be difficult to come up with a new twist for a familiar story/genre so kudos to 2013’s “We’re the Millers” for trying something unique.

A longtime and still low level pot dealer, David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) is in a bit of a spot. His stash and all the money he owes his dealer have been stolen, and David has no way to pay off his debt. Well, his dealer, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms), has a solution, albeit a dangerous one. Brad has a smidge of marijuana waiting for pick-up south of the border in Mexico, and he’d like David to go pick it up and bring it back. If he does, his debts will be cleared. David agrees, but he knows this plan won’t be easy. He too comes up with a solution, hiring three acquaintances to pose as his family so he can get in and out of Mexico without causing a stir and getting caught by the border patrol. It’s still a screwball plan, but can “the Millers” somehow pull it off and save David from some serious trouble?

 

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If you hadn’t/haven’t seen the previews before reading that plot synopsis, I bet you wouldn’t have pegged director Rawson Marshall Tucker’s (“Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”) flick as a comedy, but that’s just what it is. Okay, yeah, it’s pretty dark at times, but it is a comedy for sure. It starts off really well, dark but not too dark and blended nicely with a good combination of some lowbrow, physical humor and smarter laughs from a funny script that’s all about the line delivery. Early on, I liked it a lot, but as the movie hits the road it gets a little too goofy, a little too rambling. It’s never bad but unfortunately it also isn’t as good as it could have been. Still, there is enough to recommend, a good but not great comedy with some genuinely funny laughs.

One of my favorite stars from recent Saturday Night Live seasons (he’s since left the show), Sudeikis has made a good name for himself over the last couple years in movies like “Hall Pass”, “Horrible Bosses”, even a memorable supporting part in rom-com “Going the Distance”. While it is an ensemble cast, Sudeikis is the star here, and he carries himself well. I’ve read comparisons to Vince Vaughn, and that’s fair. He’s best when he’s underplaying his part and going for the subtle laughs. As a low-level drug dealer, Sudeikis brings a certain oddball charm, a man-boy who never really grew up (which we see in a very funny appearance from high school buddy Thomas Lennon). It’s also not your typical comedic lead, a drug dealer with his back up against the wall who’s gotta pull some fast ones over some relative strangers.

As for the Millers, there’s a good dynamic among David’s fake family. They include Rose (a top-billed Jennifer Aniston), a stripper living in David’s apartment building who’s got some serious money issues, posing as David’s wife, Casey (Emma Roberts), a punk, runaway teenager who basically lives on the streets, and Kenny (Will Poulter), a squirrely teenager who lives in David’s building as well, inexperienced in….well, just about everything, especially any sort of interactions with girls. There’s an enjoyable dynamic among the quartet, four very different people who find themselves working together with a whole lot on the line. David is getting $100,000 from Brad, promising $30,000 to Rose, $1,000 to Casey and a whole bunch of nothing to naively nice Kenny. Some of the best moments come from their act to pull off the Miller family act, and sometimes they’re the quieter moments like David passing out sombreros to really prove the tourist family act.

 

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Filling out the supporting cast is Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as the Fitzgeralds, the real deal when it comes to American families who keep meeting up with the Millers on the road, Molly Quin as their daughter who makes a surprising revelation in the Millers’ epic RV. Tomer Sisley (“Sleepless Night”) plays a Mexican drug supplier on David’s trail,  Matthew Willig his menacing enforcer, One-Eye. Also look for Luis Guzman as an opportunistic Mexican cop while Ken Marino plays the clueless owner of the strip club Rose works at.

Like I usually do with comedies, I’m wary of giving away too much because then I ruin the surprises and laughs that come up along the way. There are plenty of them, but some of those laughs get bogged down in a story that gets a little too family-oriented, a little too sentimental as the fake family becomes a bit of a real family. Good, but could have been better. Oh, and Jennifer Aniston performs a striptease so there’s that, and that is never a bad thing.

 

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RATING: **1/2

 

 

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