Well-known cast strives to save weak movie

“We’re the Millers”


New Line Cinema

1 hour, 50 minutes

Many a terrible movie has been saved by the simple fact of casting actors that were likable despite the odious nature of their characters. One of the best examples of this would have to be “Hall Pass,” starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, a terrible movie with a ridiculous premise, but that I kind of liked nonetheless. There really was nothing to like about the movie, but the actors are so affable, that you can’t help but root for the characters they play. This week’s cinematic selection is another example of this phenomenon. “We’re the Millers,” also starring Jason Sudeikis, as well as Jennifer Aniston, is a movie that is almost all premise, with characters so thinly written that you can almost see right through them on the screen. And yet Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston are nice. They’re funny, and you really don’t mind spending an hour and a half with them, no matter how idiotic the story they’re telling is. I can’t say that I particularly liked this movie, but I can’t say that I hated it either.

“We’re the Millers” stars Sudeikis as David, a low-level pot dealer, who naturally gets in over his head. Who couldn’t see that coming? David, it turns out, has scruples, and won’t sell to kids - this, in the mind of the writers, means that he’s a good guy. Aniston plays Rose, a stripper, behind on her rent and facing eviction. Rose, rough though she may be on the exterior, is also a good character. How do we know this? Because the “writers” have given her standards. She won’t have sex with the customers. And that’s pretty much all the character development that you need. When David is mugged and loses his entire stash to a group of neighborhood thugs, he is suddenly in deep with his supplier, a rich tool named Brad, played by Ed Helms, who you probably know as Andy from “The Office,” among other things. Brad coerces David into going across the border into Mexico and smuggle a fairly substantial load of pot back into the U.S. As a cover, David convinces Rose, as well as two dysfunctional teenagers - one a goofy nitwit and the other an anti-social runaway, into posing as a clean-cut vacationing family in the hopes that no one will notice the fact that the RV they’re driving is crammed from top to bottom with enough marijuana to supply the entire state of Washington. And so, this ragged quartet clean up and become the Millers, though, as their zany antics attest, clean is not their strong suit.

“We’re the Millers” is really a fairly weak series of gags strung together on little more than a vagely promising premise. The general concept has some potential for road trip wackiness, but the jokes here are fairly obvious and not particularly inventive. That said, I found myself laughing along from time to time, and even rooting for this rag tag team of drug mules in the end. I had no interest in the story, particularly, and the characterizations, as I’ve mentioned, are beyond weak. But Aniston and Sudeikis plug gamely along, playing on the fact that America wants them to succeed. The addition of character actors Nick Offerman and Katheryn Hahn, both alums of the similarly affable sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” only ups the likability factor, with the result being that, yes, the jokes are dumb, but you don’t mind so much watching them.

I picked “We’re the Millers” this week to review because, to be honest, there was little else to choose from. The Arnold Swarzenegger/Sylvester Stallone prison break flick, “Escape Plan” looks to be marginal at best, as does the “old guys go to Vegas” hilarity of “Last Vegas.” We’re in the height of the “classy” movie season, but there’s plenty of lowbrow stuff to fill out the extra auditoriums. I just wish that in these lulls, between releases of big-budget fantasy like “Thor 2” and “The Hobbit 2” and potential Oscar fare like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” we could get short runs of some of the smaller, yet no less exciting releases like “12 Years a Slave.”

More and more of these prestige independent films are going the route of simultaneous release in theaters and on-demand for home viewers in order to get an audience. If we don’t demand to see these films on the big screen, there may come a day when sitting at home in your pajamas with a remote in one hand is the only way to see some of these films. I know there are people who don’t see that as a tragedy, but I’m not one of them. Grade: C

“We’re the Millers” is rated R for pervasive language, drug use, and brief nudity.


Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.