'We're the Millers' review: Not worth getting to know this family
A potentially great comedic premise sadly resorts to cheap jokes and cobbling together a story out of a mountain of coincidental events.
In short: a low-level drug dealer (Jason Sudeikis) convinces a stripper (Jennifer Aniston), a runaway (Emma Roberts) and his dorky teen neighbor (Will Poulter) to pose as his fake family to smuggle drugs across the US-Mexico border. (watch the trailer)
'We're the Millers' unfortunately makes two critical mistakes: several main characters are little more than caricatures and the overall narrative is a mountain of incredibly convenient coincidences.
Before laying into the four main characters, it must be noted that Sudeikis, Aniston, Roberts and Poulter are solidly hilarious and touching when they need to be - which is even more impressive given the very little information given about any of their characters. Aniston effortlessly switches gears between sexy stripper and protective mother figure, while Sudeikis, Roberts and Poulter also hold their own in a film that's part dysfunctional family, part drug heist and part road trip comedy.
While Sudeikis and Aniston's characters get the most back story - thus informing their choices and attitudes - Roberts and Poulter are essentially just 'bad girl' and 'dorky guy.' Not fleshing out half the main characters, effectively limiting them to one-dimensional caricatures, cripples any sort of character development. In order to care about any character's choices and eventual development, the audience must know and care about a character beyond merely 'runaway girl curses a lot.'
This problem is much worse for every other character, which sadly diminishes supporting efforts from Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Ken Marino and Kathryn Hahn. These characters are treated as plot points. But even this would be OK if only these thin characters were incredibly hilarious - but because they lack any depth, any humor from them only comes from outrageous dialogue (a cheap way to buy laughs).
Which brings up the film's major problem: 'Millers' only moves forward from scene-to-scene thanks to stupid characters and conveniently-timed coincidences. If this family is caught smuggling hundreds of pounds of marijuana, they will certainly be imprisoned for a very long time. 'Millers' is smart enough to realize these stakes for the 'family' and consistently throws obstacles in their path, any of which could result in prison or even death. But every single time the 'family' is nearly caught, never fear- for someone's stupidity or a miraculous coincidence will save them from peril. This is horrible because it reduces the narrative to a series of miracles and takes away an opportunity from the main cast to further the story with action.
The core of 'We're the Millers' is four distinctly different characters, who initially cannot stand each other, can form their own nontraditional family. Unfortunately, this core gets lost amid insanely random stripteases, swollen genitalia humor and swinging couples gags.
Final verdict: This dysfunctional 'family' / road trip comedy never lives up to its promising potential and the sparse solid laughs are too few and far between. A rental at best.