It’s a bit of a paradox that I see more comedies these days even though good comedies are in such short supply. Perhaps a more natural reaction would be to avoid comedies in the theater and opt for the less expensive PPV or Redbox version when those become available. This is difficult for two reasons. First, It’s not like there are tons of other quality options worth seeing out there. Second, in this day and age, laughter is important, and even bad comedies will typically deliver a couple of parts that you can reflect on later and get a good chuckle. These being the case, when faced with seeing anything in the theater, one might as well go with the odds of a bad comedy as opposed to, say, a bad drama.
This is how I found myself in We’re the Millers (2013, R). There just wasn’t anything else on, and there was time to kill. This should give an indication that I didn’t have a lot of high hopes. The bar was set low, so there weren’t any dangers of failed expectations.
We’re the Millers is the story of a small-time drug dealer (Jason Sudeikis) who finds himself losing money that belongs to a big-time drug dealer (Ed Helms). To settle the debt, Big-Time Dealer sends him on a mission across the Mexican border to bring back some dope. In order to avoid suspicion at law enforcement, Small-Time Dealer enlists Boy Next Door (Will Poulter), Teen Punk (Emma Roberts), and Stripper (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his family. Of course, the mission is bit less cut and dry than that, as they discover the dope being transported actually belongs to another Big-Time Dealer.
There are plenty of comedies, bereft of substantive plot, that are still entertaining because they are just hilarious. In fact, this might be the majority of comedies. You can even do it in a kooky-family-on-vacation context (see National Lampoon’s Vacation). Unfortunately, that didn’t happen with We’re the Millers. It’s just a string of gags, most of which don’t work. Like with so many modern efforts, crudeness has taken the place of actual humor. Crude can be funny. The director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, was able to generate funny crude moments in Dodgeball, for example. Not so much here.
Note to every filmmaker alive. Showing genitalia doesn’t make something funny. You can stop trying now.
Sudeikis is unconvincing as Small-Time Dealer. When he’s playing himself, as he does in most other things, his acting really isn’t a problem. But a drug-dealer? It just didn’t work. Jennifer Aniston was in this so that people wanting to see her strip would buy tickets. Other than being the right age for the part and physically fit, she brought nothing else to the table. The kids were actually pretty good, with the only exception being the aforementioned genitalia shot with Poulter. Their timing was good, they showed actual chemistry, and the jokes for them worked.
No Catholic content to speak of.
Vulgarities abounded. The language was about as bad as it gets. While there were scenes in a strip club and Aniston got her opportunity for a pole dance, there was no female nudity. As already mentioned, we did get a shot of male nudity, though. There was some violence, but it was nothing graphic, just gunshots and car chases for the most part.
This was a movie that actually made me think quite a bit about the state of motion picture comedy, though. The non-crude comedy menu at the box office seems to be getting pretty thin. Either it’s an R-rated show, something from a Nickelodeon/Disney live action spin-off, or an offering of Waterboyesque idiocy. It is possible to make entertaining and funny PG movies that families can see. When I was growing up, it seemed like they were everywhere (Ghostbusters, Big, Back to the Future, etc., although even these had some risque moments). It’s a dying (dead?) genre for this generation.
Now get off my lawn.
We’re the Millers might not be bad on television or as a PPV or Redbox rental. It definitely wasn’t worth the price of admission. The real funny moments were very few and far between. The rest is just an endless reel of awkwardly unfunny schtick. Take a pass on this one.
Half a tiara.
Review by Throwback