Drug smuggling comedy plays it safe
A few routine laughs but overall the joint fizzles
Posted: September 4, 2013
Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston pretend to be two parents in the drug smuggling romantic comedy We're the Millers.
Now that marijuana is slowly becoming legalized in parts of the US, it stands to reason that marijuana comedies will start to become mainstream. We're the Millers is such an effort, and it a long ways away from the freewheeling stoner humor of Cheech and Chong films of the past.
The setup of We're the Millers is quite promising. A low-level drug dealer named David Clark, played by Saturday Night Live alumnus Jason Sudeikis, falls afoul of his boss, a man who keeps a killer whale in a giant fish tank in his office. To make things right, David has to go to Mexico to pick up a "smidge and a half" of weed.
David's brilliant plan for not getting caught is to take a fake family with him in a mobile vacation home. He tries to get his neighbor, a stripper with financial problems named Rose to help, but they already have a somewhat strained relationship. Since Jennifer Aniston, who plays Rose, has top billing in the film, it is a foregone conclusion that she will change her mind.
In the meantime he rounds up a teenage boy - Kenny, played by Will Poulter - whose parents have seemingly abandoned him, and a runaway girl named Casey, played by Emma Roberts. The four of them go by the fake name the Millers. The early scene where David goes to get his haircut so he no longer looks like a drug dealer has perhaps the best dialogue in the film, which makes the rest a bit disappointing.
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter
There is little new that can be done with the plot involving two adult traveling companions who initially hate each other but seem destined to fall in love anyway. It's the basic premise of It Happened One Night from 1934 and countless other comedies over the years. Aside from tossing some weed into the plot, We're the Millers doesn't try to push the envelope.
Friends TV show star Aniston always plays characters that are decent at heart, so her attempts to become a mother to these lost souls is a bit of a gimme. The runaway and the abandoned boy both need one, and David needs someone to help him grow up and finally stop being the same drug dealer that he was back in school.
The road-trip scenes have a few moments as the younger cast starts to bond while listening to the radio and complaining like it is a real vacation, but given the situation it never reaches the heights that it should. The parts in Mexico are also a bit of a letdown because the trip there is so brief. Aside from some tension at the border, there is none of the expected fish-out-of-water misunderstandings save for one scene with a corrupt cop seeking a bribe. There isn't even a scene with Mexican food or a colorful scene in a village.
All of the plot with the strip club and Rose as a stripper is played very low-key, with no real nudity, though Aniston does put on a dance number at one point to try to distract some drug cartel members. The plot with the pot is also very understated. While you see tons, actually, of the drug, there are very few moments where anyone actually uses it. Even the runaway girl seems unnaturally disinterested in the cargo.
The Millers meet up with another family that is traveling in a recreational vehicle. While they try to break loose, the other family keeps tracking them down. This provides the bulk of the film's humor as Kenny falls for the other family's daughter and the other couple gets the mistaken idea that the Millers are swingers. Much of this - with some hints at what would be incest if the Millers were a real family - is more awkward than funny.
We're the Millers is one of those films that is worth watching some cold night on cable TV when you wrap yourself up in a blanket and munch on some potato chips, but the few sporadic laughs and predictable outcome don't really make this something one has to run out and see at all costs.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at