Friday, September 20, 2013

Summer Finishes Comedy Strong With We’re The Millers!

The Good: Funny, Generally decent acting
The Bad: Very predictable plot and character development
The Basics: This year’s summer runaway comedy film, We’re The Millers actually entertains and hits the right notes to be the year’s most enduring comedy.

Every summer since The Hangover (reviewed here!), the major studios have tried like hell to create a summer comedy that would have the staying power at the box office to last through August and into September in order to get the college crowd’s money, as well as captivating adults and becoming the must-watch movie for high school students. This year, New Line actually nails it with We’re The Millers, a comedy that has managed to maintain a place in the Top 5 of the box office for over a month and a half . . . and with good reason.

We’re The Millers is hampered most by the fact that it is painfully predictable in its plot and character development. Within the first fifteen minutes almost anyone who has ever seen a comedy film will be able to call pretty much the entire film. “Painfully predictable” undersells how obvious We’re The Millers is for the movie. The humor in We’re The Millers lands because verbally, the film is hilarious and the performers in it sell the lines they are given in an uncommonly smart way. In fact, it is surprising how funny We’re The Millers is, despite the plot being utterly blasé.

David Clark is a very active drug dealer who makes the mistake one evening of helping his neighbor’s son, Kenny, come to the aid of the homeless Casey, who is being mugged by guys who want her iPhone. David is robbed by the muggers, who steal his drug money and leave him in a precarious position for his distributor, Brad Gurdlinger. Brad tells David he will forgive the debt and even pay him $100,000 if David will go to Mexico to his weed source and smuggle back “a smidge and a half” of weed. Recognizing that he looks like the drug dealer that he is, David gets a haircut and hires Kenny, Casey, and his stripper neighbor, Rose, to pretend to be his family. They rent an RV and go to Mexico. There, they meet Pablo Chacon and get two tons of his weed before heading out.

Surviving a run-in with Mexican law enforcement, the faux-family (who go by the surname “Miller”) makes it to the U.S. border. There, they are accosted by another family – the Fitzgeralds – in their RV. The Fitzgeralds are boisterous, archetypal Americans, who express a lot of interest in the Millers and while the drug smugglers are eager to get away from the Fitzgeralds, when their RV breaks down they are forced to rely upon the other family. In the process of running from the Fitzgeralds and Pablo Chacon (and his one-eyed thug), the Millers bond, have awkward sexual blunders, and try to deal with Brad’s treacherous nature. In the journey, Dave and Rose realize they might have more in common than they thought and the Millers actually become a family.

We’re The Millers has a comedic dream cast and I give a lot of credit to director Rawson Marshall Thurber. Thurber is ballsy enough to put both Jason Sudeikis and Ed Helms – who fill the exact same niche and are almost the same height even! – in the same film as David and Brad, respectively. The scenes they are in together illustrate well why they are considered two of the funniest people working in the U.S. today. Nick Offerman plays off Sudeikis with hilarious results and Offerman and Kathryn Hahn have great on-screen awkward chemistry to play a plausible couple that has been together for a long time.

Thurber also deserves real credit for getting Emma Roberts out of her on-screen comfort zone. Roberts, who is one of my favorite younger talents, is anything but simple and charming in the role of Casey. In fact, this is a film that does not trade on any of the innate charm she presents in virtually every other film role she has had. What is unsurprising is how Jennifer Aniston plays a stripper who does not take it all off. Like virtually every part Aniston has played, Rose is a character with an extensive backstory and in the revelation of her past struggles, Aniston is called upon to emote largely through softening her more stern facial expressions. Aniston’s performance is largely familiar, but to her credit, she is daring when the movie calls for it and fans are likely to be excited by how far she goes to sell the character of Rose.

The whole reason to watch We’re The Millers, though, is not for the cast – though it is good – and it is not for the characters or the plot, but it is a must-watch for the lines. Not since Monty Python And The Holy Grail (reviewed here!), though my wife would say Step Brothers (reviewed here!), has there been a comedy that is as quotable with as many superbly absurd one-liners as We’re The Millers. The Hangover may have been the runaway summer comedy a few years ago, but We’re The Millers raises the bar now.

For other films with Ed Helms, check out my reviews of:
Arrested Development - Season Four
The Hangover, Part III
The Lorax
The Hangover Part II
Cedar Rapids
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
Monsters Vs. Aliens
Confessions Of A Shopaholic


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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