News Column

'We're the Millers' a so-so sitcom trapped inside a movie

August 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 06--"We're the Millers" aims for mediocrity and hits it with a dull thud.

The comedy about a small-time drug dealer, David Burke (Jason Sudeikis), who puts together a fake family as a way of slipping out of Mexico with an RV full of marijuana has enough laughs to fill a TV sitcom. The problem is the movie has a running time of 110 minutes.

You know a movie is in trouble when the best scenes are the opening that's a collection of real YouTube clips and the bloopers during the closing credits.

The problem starts with Sudeikis who looks like he was cast only because Jason Bateman, David Spade, Owen Wilson, Seth Rogen and Jack Black were busy. He was funny in small blasts on "SNL" but not over a feature film. That's because the script by Steve Faber and Dan Fybel doesn't give him enough funny material and he shows no signs of being able to improvise his way out of comic lulls.

The same goes for Emma Roberts as the street-tough runaway who agrees to play the fake daughter and Will Poulter as the virginal fake brother. Each are one-note characters who do little more than fill the screen. Their efforts aren't bad, just safely at that mediocre level.

Jennifer Aniston brings some energy to the role but her performance as the stripper with a heart of gold who has less comedic moments than scenes where the actress can strip down to prove that she might be getting older but she still looks great. That might be good for a nasty tweet to an ex-boyfriend but does little to lift "We're the Millers" from its mundane funk.

Even director Rawson Marshall Thurber, the man behind the original "Dodgeball -- A True Underdog Story," can't increase the comic pulse of the movie. He's hampered by a script that offers no surprises to anyone who's ever seen a situation comedy.

These four strangers who are pretending to be a family hate each other at the start. You get three guesses as to how the film ends and odds are high you'll only need one.

That predictability is a safe way to go, but more's expected from a summer comedy. Even the attempts to be raunchy -- from genitalia swollen because of a spider bite to Aniston's tribute to "Flashdance" -- come across flat because they feel like comedy bits and not part of an organic story.

The mots offensive thing about "We're the Millers" is the general sense of apathy in casting, writing, direction and acting. It's hard to get invested in a story when those involved don't seem to care that much.

Movie review

"We're the Millers," rated R for language, drugs, adult material, brief graphic nudity. Stars Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. Grade: C-. Opened Wednesday.

Theaters and times

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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