We're the Millers
We're the Millers is an American comedy, and if you don't already know me then I'd best pitch this up front. I'm not a huge fan of American comedies because they can usually be summarised really easily, and before I give you the summary list please be aware that I'm not a prude, I just like some intelligence and depth to my comedy rather than running around shouting rude words at the camera.
- Jokes about sexual functions
- Jokes about bodily functions
- Jokes about a physical aspect of the character such as being overweight
- Swearing as a joke in itself
- Repeating the punch line of one of the above jokes immediately after itself
That's the kind of lazy comic writing I abhor and so therefore I tend to hate a lot of American comedy. Yet I have to admit to finding We're the Millers not that offensive both comedy and film wise. While it did try to be just that at the beginning, ladling on swear words to hit the cheap comedy notes, it calms down and there's a bit more to the writing than you might first think, if you come from my school of comedy enjoyment.
We're the Millers has a rather interesting plot set-up. A successful small time drug dealer is robbed and loses his stash along with his and his dealer's money. He's in serious trouble and the dealer offers him a simple way out of it, just bring some marijuana across the Mexican border for him and the debts will be wiped with a nice healthy profit handed over at the same time. It's a deal too good to pass up, especially when the other option could well be very painful for him.
As he struggles with how he's going to get the drugs smuggled through the border he spies a family in a huge RV (a massive camper van for those non-Americans) lost and blocking the street. When a policeman arrives he's sure they're going to be in trouble however he assists them on their way with kindness and not a second glance. An idea is borne. Enlisting the assistance of two of his neighbours and a local homeless girl he creates a seemingly perfect family to cover the drug smuggling. It seems a fool proof plan. Expect everything seems to go wrong and they are far from being a perfect family.
As the film started I was surprised by a number of things, it wasn't nearly as offensively bad as I had expected, there was a good dose of comedy that had a little more depth and elicited a few giggles, and Jennifer Aniston looks damn good. Seriously though, she does look good…no, I mean there is a lot more comedy to this than I expected.
While it tried to hit the offensive swearing run straight off it did calm down and the story took over with the comedy settling away from the standard American fare to something with a little more intelligence to it, the sex and bodily function jokes are still there but they do step into the background and don't dominate.
While the plot has a good set-up I don't think the film made as full use of it as it could have. There were some moments where there was a lot of play on the fact that these people weren't really a family and began falling into the trap of behaving just like that, and there were some other interesting moments such as the fake mother and fake daughter teaching the fake brother to kiss, but they weren't rib tickling hilarious moments and neither were there any big surprises, the story does play out pretty much as you'd expect it to.
There are some small turns that you might not see coming such as the DEA agent, but moments such as the tent visit or the overall plot do come to you just as you'd thought they would moments before, more often than not realising what's going to happen before it does. There are some nicely conceived scenes even if some of them feel contrived to get to a gag, such as the tent visit, and they do raise a laugh despite grating against any form of character reality. I mean who would imagine sneaking into a tent to steal someone's keys to then drive off with two camper vans, perform some mechanical work that you couldn't do in the first place, and then return both vans without waking anyone up?
Moments like this litter the film and while you can say that it's not meant to be film based on any reality and you should suspend your disbelief for the entirety, doing so doesn't mean ignoring basic rules of the characters involved or the world they occupy. Take for example the habit the lead character has of taking every opportunity to shout in public and create a scene clearly telling everyone around that they are a fake family on a drug deal and then expecting to carry on the facade the very next moment. If there had been a little more work on these moments then the comedy could have delivered that little bit better.
A few moments particularly stuck with me such as the huge highway crash with no comeback or how the guy gave up his drug and money stash from the hidden combination safe when he was mugged away from home. They, just as when Jason Sudeikis looks to the audience to acknowledge Jennifer Aniston sexily dancing in her underwear, her wet underwear. Moments like these don't really work and broke the film's hold on me, better to have stayed in the moment and follow the comedy and action to come.
Still the team work well together - Sudeikis, Aniston, Will Poulter and Emma Roberts - and their moments where they slip into the family characters without realising it are very amusing. I really liked the drug baron character played surprisingly by Ed Helms and his secret lair, he had a lot of potential to deliver some good jokes, particularly with his aquarium.
I do think though that one of the best jokes comes at the very end of the blooper reel and had me laughing more than any of the giggling moments during the film, a sure indication of the level of comedy contained within. If I counted all the times I did giggle I guess I would be hitting the second hand of fingers (yes I do have two full hands of fingers, and just my own), but there were some moments I genuinely did laugh and enjoyed the joke such as the tent set-up or the fake father's interrogation of the circus boy.
We're the Millers isn't a fantastic comedy but neither is it a bad one. There are some funny moments in it that will have a few laughs out of you and for an enjoyable, wash over you, pretty inoffensive Friday night film you aren't going to regret your money too much, as long as you're on a night out that doesn't hinge on the film.
It isn't packed with clever writing and humour and it does follow pretty standard route with the plot and comedy. The story plays out as you'd expect when you'd expect, and there's nothing to really blow you off your feet.
The four lead actors work well together and provide for some amusing interplay, leaving you with a few moments you'll remember and mention outside the film, particularly from Jennifer Aniston. Although you probably won't be talking about it for too long after the film.
You won't feel let down by it nor will you feel blown away. All in all it's a standard American comedy for a standard film night out.