Film Review: We’re the Millers

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Jennifer Aniston (above) and Jason Sudeikis star in the mad, mad Mary Jane farce, We’re the Millers. Jennifer Aniston (above) and Jason Sudeikis star in the mad, mad Mary Jane farce, We’re the Millers.

We’re the Millers has the kind of story that can be hammered out in about 15 minutes, if its writers follow the “Save the Cat” formula. (Read this outline before you see it and you’ll actually see the story beats play out when you watch the movie.)

The central plot—a pot dealer recruits three people to help him smuggle two tons of marijuana from Mexico to the United States—is totally stupid. And there are lots of things in We’re the Millers that are just dumb, backward (like the movie’s treatment of Jennifer Aniston’s character), and not believable. Despite its by-the-numbers script and predictable story touches, there are enough funny—even unexpected—flourishes scattered throughout its 109 minutes to bring out the occasional gut laugh.

David (Jason Sudeikis) is the dealer. His entire rig—from the dime bags he sells to his boss’ money and his personal finances —is stolen by guys who look like variations of Shaun White as David and his doofus neighbor, Kenny (Will Poulter), try to stop them from robbing Casey (Emma Roberts), a runaway.

Aside: In one of the pleasant unexpected touches the movie supplies, David leaps from a fire escape into an industrial trash bin, only to have his backpack land first and close the bin’s lid. As a result, David hits the closed lid and is incapacitated. The Shaun White lookalikes find his address, beat him up, and take his stuff. In most movies, David would just land in the bin unharmed and escape.

David’s boss (Ed Helms, smiling and slimey) tells David that he’ll forgive him for losing his weed and his money, if he goes to Mexico and picks up two tons of pot from a connection. He’ll even pay David $100,000.00 But how will David pull it off?

Inspiration arrives in a totally contrived way as David is sitting on his stoop, wondering how to pull off the smuggling operation, as an RV filled with Midwestern rubes pulls up, its inhabitants lost. A-ha! He’ll get Kenny and Casey to pose as his kids, rent an RV, and bring the pot up that way.

Enter Rose (Aniston), a stripper who leaves her job just as her boss demands she start sleeping with the customers. She also loses her apartment (she’s David’s neighbor), and her boyfriend steals her money. She reluctantly goes along with the plan, posing as Mom.

The purpose of We’re the Millers is not to be groundbreaking. It’s to a) make money, and b) be funny. The story’s tired conventions—solving a problem that could only exist in a movie with characters that only exist in movies—are offset by a few mildly subversive things.

First, the main characters are, for all intents and purposes, drug smugglers, and we root for them. Second, a group of supporting characters featuring Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn turn out to be fun in addition to functional. Third, David is a self-involved asshole, and he’s the lead.

In the end We’re the Millers isn’t great, but it does have a surprise or two up its convention-bound sleeve. Stay for the credits.

We’re the Millers 

Opening Wednesday 8/7

R, 109 minutes

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

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