News Column

REVIEW: We're the Millers

August 7, 2013


Aug. 07--"We're the Millers" is an R-rated comedy that wants to show us that it has heart, too, when it comes to showing how families bond and support one another.

But the picture is as dysfunctional as many families. It seems stuck in the idea that while most of the time we love our family members, we would also love to have some freedom that proves elusive within the family structure.

So "We're the Millers" teeters between scenes of people both longing for and desperately avoiding family ties, while mixing in raunchy, ridiculous situations that feel like we're watching an evening of "Saturday Night Live" skits.

Strung together, it's always the same: Some bits work, some don't. "We're the Millers" works about half the time.

This sketch comedy sensibility seems to be a running trend with New Line Cinema, the division of Warner Bros. that has offered us the R-rated situation silliness of "Hall Pass" and "Horrible Bosses" to varying degrees of success.

Jason Sudeikis, who just left "SNL" after eight seasons, was in both movies. Jennifer Aniston, who found a new niche for herself by playing an oversexed character in "Horrible Bosses," retains some of the sleaze factor for "We're the Millers" and joins Sudeikis here.

Meet the Millers: They're a wholesome-looking American family composed of mom and dad and brother and sister. But look closer: They're not related at all.

Dad, better known as David (Sudeikis) is actually a small-time pot dealer in debt to his mega-dealer boss (Ed Helms playing the farce for all it's worth). David can get out of this jam by smuggling two tons of marijuana from Mexico into the U.S.

David's thought: Families are safe. Families get the "come on through" wave at places like the Mexican border. Hey, if I had a family, and I loaded them up in an RV for a trip to Mexico, I might look innocent enough to pull this off!

Enter his "wife" Rose (Aniston), who is actually a stripper and David's neighbor in his apartment building. There's also his son (British actor Will Poulter is very believable as a virgin) who's also a neighbor, and his daughter (Emma Roberts), a local runaway.

Clean them up and you have your situation in place, so load up the RV and get ready to laugh on this comedy road trip! This is what the "Dodgeball" director is hoping for in giving form to a script from a pair of "Wedding Crashers" writers and two of the "Hot Tub Time Machine" scripters.

But his focus on silly situations never allows for the concept of a family dynamic to be realized. It's all about the skits, so to speak.

Like Poulter pulling off the rap from TLC's "Waterfalls." Or his being taught to kiss by both his (fake) sister and mother. Or his below-the-belt spider bite.

Poulter not only has the most graphic display of nudity with that scene, but he also has most of the funniest bits in the film.

There are occasional chuckles, ranging from lame to amusingly naughty, to be found in the family's run-ins with law enforcement, Mexican drug dealers or another wacky family headed by Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn, who shares an oddly intimate moment with Aniston.

Aniston makes almost any situation better with her comedic timing, and Sudeikis's snide style sneaks in side jokes repeatedly. Roberts does not fare as well as the others, but then her blandness never does.

Another element that the filmmakers decided was working was having Aniston perform her strip-tease act, so she obliges when it can help the family out of a jam.

I realize that this is an important film element for some attending "We're the Millers" who could care far less about a coherent story or production values.

We're the Millers

Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Ed Helms

Theaters: Cinemark Tulsa, Promenade, Cinemark Broken Arrow, Starworld 20, RiverWalk, Owasso, Eton Square, Sand Springs

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

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

Quality: 2 stars (on a scale of zero to four stars)


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