We’re The Millers is dumb. There’s no kinder way to say it. But so was Rawson Marshall Thurber’s first film, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and that became both a hit with critics and audiences. Unfortunately, Thurber’s new one probably won’t receive the same treatment. Fans of the stupid humor Dodgeball mined, and even at times perfected, will surely find the Jason Sudeikis-led comedy a fun ride, but most will find it lacking.
It’s a simple story of small time pot dealer David Clark (Sudeikis) getting robbed and losing everything. In debt to his eccentric, billionaire boss — and one time college buddy — Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms), he’s forced to fill in as a drug smuggler and bring a lot of pot over the Mexican border. David comes up with the idea that the best disguise is to be part of an all American family on an RV trip. So he recruits his stripper neighbor Rose (Jennifer Aniston) as his wife, who herself is in some financial trouble; another neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter), a naive and nerdy kid who is more or less abandoned by his mother, as their son; and finally Casey (Emma Roberts) a local homeless girl who has nothing better to do. So they become the Millers and are off to Mexico to score some marijuana. Oh yea, and hijinks ensue.
What the film lacks is any sort of originality emanating from plot or character development. It’s the type of comedy that sacrifices everything for humor — passports are never even mentioned, despite crossing an international border posing as relatives. But, neither did much of Dodgeball make sense. The major difference is that the oddities of Dodgeball’s world were woven into the story itself, while the oddities of We’re The Millers are really just plot holes that are glossed over to keep the story moving. And yet, the film has a bit of a charm and, yes, can even be very funny at times. Sudeikis toyed with leading man status in Horrible Bosses, but shared the spotlight with Jason Bateman and Charlie Day. Here, he’s clearly leading the show but with the help of Jennifer Aniston. It won’t be his breakout role — critics be damned — but he does show he has what it takes to carry a story on his own, even if that story is thin.
Whereas Dodgeball embraced the weird, We’re The Millers is a product of major studio gloss and sheen, wiping away any frayed edges and sticking to vulgarity in its place. Even as jokes about Casey’s homelessness are being thrown around, Roberts is caked in makeup, the only indication she lives on the streets being nose and lip rings. And still, the jokes can be funny. The four really do have a good chemistry — especially Sudeikis and Aniston — but the real breakout star of the film may be Poulter.
The only “good one” of the bunch, Kenny has a naivete that is a source for much of his humor but his lack of life experience also means he adds an honest touch of humanity that saves the film from being just another swear-laden studio comedy. Sure, it has a lot of bad words, and much of it is potty humor, but there are times that Thurber’s self-awareness — something that made Dodgeball a success — shines through, especially in the character of Kenny. If only the film had more of it.
Amusing turns by Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as another RV family that attempts to strike up a friendship with the Millers also keeps the film barely afloat as it desperately tries to sink itself. Even as it tries so hard to be another bland-yet-vulgar comedy — which is the standard ingredients for a studio comedy these days — a solid script and likable cast bring up enough genuine laughs that the film isn’t a total disaster. It’s even, gulp, hilarious at times. For all of the garbage Hollywood seems intent on spewing out these days, there’s worse and less funny picks than We’re The Millers.
Rating: 3 out of 5