There’s certainly nothing wrong with a “high concept” sitcom-style comedy flick, provided the filmmakers bring something more to the table than just another “high concept” sitcom-style comedy. The combination of a familiar formula and a fresh infusion of energy can elevate even the most basic of multiplex farces into something a little more appealing.
That’s not to say that the new Jason Sudiekis/Jennifer Aniston comedy known as We’re the Millers is any sort of brilliant piece of comedy filmmaking, but it does offer just enough of an amusing plot hook: a quartet of losers go on a road trip to smuggle a huge amount of marijuana from Mexico to deliver to an American drug tycoon who’s as dangerous as he is goofy. The hook is that a shiftless weed dealer, an aging stripper, and two troubled teenagers will pose as a bland and generic American family in an effort to avoid the authorities.
Like I said, pure sitcom material through and through, but let’s give a little credit where it’s due: just as the two leads (Sudeikis and Aniston) represent two different sides of TV comedy (let’s call them “subversive vs conventional”), the Millers screenwriters and director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) do a decent job of balancing formulaic beats with a parcel of weird and decidedly adult material.
Just when We’re the Millers starts to feel a little too familiar for its own good, up pops an unexpectedly bizarre piece of (often amusing) strangeness. Not surprisingly, the interplay between the actors works a whole lot better than do the set-pieces you’ve seen in the trailers. (One involving a tarantula biting a testicle should have probably been tossed into the editing bin pile.) I got a lot more laughs from the dialogue than I did from pratfalls like “spider bites balls.” Frankly, I think this movie is a little better than “spider bites balls.”
Clearly intended as a starring “vehicle” for former SNL star Jason Sudeikis, We’re the Millers earns a lot of points from the comedian’s natural charm and humor. Ms. Aniston wavers between warm and icy, but is never all that funny; fortunately Will Poulter and Emma Roberts are on hand to provide some chuckles as the fake spouses’ fake teenagers. If We’re the Millers has some weird pacing issues (it takes a while to warm up) and gets a little too “warm & fuzzy” in the emotions department for its own good, it’s nice to note that these are small distractions in the face of a straight, simple, admirably R-rated comedy that certainly doesn’t blaze any new trails, but does manage to entertain for most of its 110 minutes.
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