We’re The Millers (Warner Bros,, 8.7) is a vulgar, sloppily written, oppressively unfunny road comedy about a “typical Middle-American family” involved in a Mexican drug-smuggling charade. Plot-wise, I mean. Thematically it’s a lampoon of suburban families and the hellish, self-loathing lives they presumably lead as they tow the “normal” line. There’s a scene in which Jason Sudeikis‘ character, a Denver pot dealer, is about to get a straight-arrow haircut so he’ll look like a stodgy family guy, and he goes into a longish riff about what a miserable thing it is to be Joe Schmoe with the kids and the mortgage and the temptation to put a gun in his mouth. And yet the movie is also about the nurturing effect of living this kind of life, and how even the most anti-straightlaced among us are drawn to it.
The plot adheres to the boilerplate formula known as the Three D’s — desire, deception and discovery. (Which was used by Some Like It Hot.) Sudeikis desires…well, is forced by his supplier (Ed Helms) to agree to carry dozens of pounds of pot across the Mexican border and into the U.S. He decides to deceive the border patrol by hiring a surly stripper neighbor (Jennifer Aniston) and enlisting two rootless kids (Will Poulter, Emma Roberts) so they can all portray a typical innocent-looking American family on a vacation. And by the end they all discover, of course, that they wouldn’t half-mind being the Millers, which is to say the Cleavers (Ward, June, Wally and Beaver). So the movie starts out trashing Middle-American schmuck attitudes and lifestyles, and ends up half-embracing them.
I’m going to drop a few spoilers at this point but when a move is as bad as We’re The Millers, it’s not spoiling — it’s cleansing. Cleansing my brain and my soul by flushing out the memories.
In a tonal or mannerist sense We’re The Millers is actually two movies. 15% to 20% is the set-up portion in which we get to know Sudeikis, Aniston and the kids, and are told why Sudeikis has to go along with the smuggle. This part isn’t half bad as it’s relatively low-key and reality-based. The remaining 80% to 85% is the sitcom schticky section in which the deception plot kicks into gear and all kinds of broad, stupid-ass bullshit material is thrown at the wall and fails to stick. It’s awful to sit through. Painful. All they’re doing is trying out crude sex gags — drawings of big black schlongs, swinging, Poulter experiencing anxiety when it comes to kissing a pretty girl, a pot-bellied Mexican cop (Luis Guzman) demanding a blowjob or else, Aniston pretending that a marijuana brick wrapped in a blanket is actually an infant — and none of it is the least bit amusing.
A tarantula biting Poulter’s scrotum and making it all red and swollen to three or four times its normal size — in what realm could this even be faintly funny? What kind of a lowbrow asshole do you need to be to dream this up and pitch it at a script meeting? What kind of a simian do you have to be to hear this pitch and go “yeah, great!”
After crossing the border and safely (?) inside the U.S. the Millers run into Don and Edie Fitzgerald (Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn), a tediously milquetoast couple on vacation with their red-haired daughter (Molly Quinn), and…I don’t even want to talk about this. It’s aggravating just to think about this part of the film.
When the Millers are about to be machine-gunned to death by Mexican drug dealers Aniston saves the day by distracting the big honcho with a Flashdance-y striptease number. Except…how is this helping them avoid getting shot? The druglord could just watch and and enjoy the show and have them killed anyway. There isn’t a sliver of logic in this scene, and if you ask me it was dreamt up so that Aniston, 44, can show the world (and more precisely the entertainment industry) that she’s just as hot-boddy as ever and yowsah yowsah oh my my. And yet this is undermined by the fact that Aniston wears a ton of makeup in the film — pounds of base, boxes of mascara — which was applied, one presumes, because it would otherwise be obvious that she’s in her mid 40s and just a hop, skip and a jump away from being 50.
Aniston is loaded (worth well over $100 million) but her marquee currency is powered by a bankrupt attitude of take the money and run. (And then walk the red carpet and vacation in Mexico and grace the cover of tabloids and lah-lah.) Aniston seems almost as determined as Kate Hudson to costar in nothing but inept comedies and cruddy romcoms. She’s been in exactly four half-decent films — The Good Girl, Bruce Almighty, Friends with Money and The Break-Up. I think she needs to get down on her knees and thank Angelina Jolie each and every day for stealing Brad Pitt away. Aniston’s fame and fortune is completely rooted in her being the woman whose husband cheated on her and left her high and dry — a situation that millions of average women have found kinship with. Without that marital misfortune (which happened eight years ago) Aniston would have fizzled by now.
I don’t know why Thurber cast Poulter, who has an oddly shaped face that looks like he’s in the beginning stages of neurofibromatosis (i.e., the Elephant Man’s disease).
It’s believed that We’re The Millers director Rawson Marshall Thurber made Dodgeball so he could get the money to direct The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a passion project. Fair enough, but what did he make We’re The Millers for?