David (Jason Sudeikis) is a small time pot dealer who encounters a problem when his house is burgled and his stash of weed and a large amount of cash is stolen. David’s boss comes up with a simple solution; if David brings back a ‘smidge’ of pot from Mexico, Brad (Ed Helms) will let him off the hook and pay him $1,000. In order to carry out his mission, hopefully without detection, David enlists the help of some friends to create a fake family, and it is not long before Rose (Jennifer Aniston), Kenny (Will Poulter), Casey (Emma Roberts) and Dave are posing as the Miller family, although it has been a long time since any one of them was part of a real family.
Remember when Jennifer Aniston tried her hand at some dramatic roles, including the excellent and under rated The Good Girl? So do I. If you are expecting something new and different from Aniston this time out, you are going to be disappointed. There is little doubt that the actress’ strength is comedy, but We’re The Millers feels like a safe bet for Aniston, who we know could do more. That is not to say that Aniston is in any way bad in We’re The Millers, she’s not; she’s warm, likeable and she looks phenomenal in lingerie, but it seems that Aniston has found the space where she is comfortable and, although she follows on a little from her scene stealing role in Horrible Bosses – in that Rose is foul mouthed and rude – it is not long before the familiar Aniston character rises to the surface.
Jason Sudeikis obviously has fun with David, but once the audience has been shown that he is not the nice guy, he quickly falls into that role… Then out of it again, then into it again. The kids, played by Emma Roberts and Will Poulter fit into the stereotypes of the foul-mouthed runaway and the overly enthusiastic virgin. Both actors manage their roles just fine, although Poulter is given a little more to do than Roberts, but these characters feel as though they were created to adhere to a formula, rather than as characters themselves. That said, the actors have found themselves playing characters they have played before and feel safe with, so the outcome is entertaining, if a little familiar.
Nick Offerman and Katherine Hahn turn up in the film, as the type of family that the ‘Millers’ are trying to emulate. Yes, the Fitzgeralds are annoyingly earnest and forthright, but this is the contrast that the film is trying to create, and the moments where the ‘Millers’ are pitted against the real life versions of the characters they are trying to play are the ones that work the best. Offerman and Hahn shine, and provide much of the comic relief throughout the film.
All four – count ‘em! FOUR – writers of the film, Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders and John Morris have had successes in their past with Hot Tub Time Machine and Wedding Crashers, but the originality of both of these films is lost in We’re The Millers. As soon as the set up for a joke or a revelation begins, it is easy to see how it will end and, the initial, interesting set up is soon lost when the ‘family’ get back to the US and have to deal with the people around them, rather than one another. That said, there are some great jokes in the film, imaginative insults and some genuine laugh out loud moments, but these are quickly replaced with deliberate awkwardness, conflict and full frontal male nudity.
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber previously brought us Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, so it easy to see why he would be drawn to a story about a stripper, a drug dealer, a virgin and a runaway on the road together, but the magic of the premise is lost through safe direction and some sloppy pacing. Much of the focus of the film is given to the set pieces and gags, with little thought for the moments in between, the ones that hold the narrative together.
In all, We’re The Millers is a familiar comedy with some genuine laugh out loud moments. The entire cast appears happy to play it safe and, while this works, it does not make up for a predictable plot, hit and miss dialogue and some odd pacing. Nick Offerman, Katherine Hahn and Ed Helms shine in their small roles, but we have seen the main cast do this many times before, and the promise of the premise is not always lived up to.