Comedies are difficult to pull off in a cinematic era where film genres are crossing over into multiple arenas and no one film can be categorized that easily. Therefore the comedy genre has to always be changing and updating to fit in with the modern sensibilities of its audience and what passes for funny, at the time. While classic comedies relied on slapstick elements, such as the Charlie Chaplin era, there was also a phase of low brow potty humour that ruled the box office, like the ‘Scary Movie’ parodies or the ‘Harold And Kumar’ franchise.
Nowadays, the mushy family comedy that starts out as dysfunctional and ends up warm and fuzzy has become extinct. It’s an era of more aloof and cavalier comedy where, what passes for character bonding is too cliche and trite for audiences to relate to. Capitalizing on this, ‘We’re The Millers’ provides a family comedy that is about a non-family group of characters, who outrageously come together as the most unlikely of people that choose to be around each other.
‘We’re The Millers’ is all about low level drug peddler David (Jason Sudeikis) who ends up getting robbed while trying to do a good deed, for once. Being forced to become an international drug smuggler, in order to wipe out his debt from his boss, David has to find a fake family to help him travel across the Mexican border since no one would suspect a cheerful family on vacation. To do this, he recruits his neighbour Rose who happens to be a stripper, (Jennifer Anniston) a dorky teenager named Kenny, (Will Poulter) and a runaway called Casey, (Emma Roberts) to pretend to be his fake family.
The movie succeeds due to a tendency to not take itself too seriously. The main character of David starts off as a self serving criminal, and despite his becoming close to the other characters, his layabout attitude and jerk-like personality is not softened due to it. When his emotional arc comes to a close in the third act, David is not overly apologetic or regretful of his actions, but tries to make up for his previously terrible behaviour by attempting to make light of the situations through sarcasm and an oversimplification of the events that transpired. This endears David as a consistent character, as he doesn’t just get emotional at the end, as would be expected from the usual story of this type.
Despite this lack of overtly emotional displays of bonding, ‘We’re The Millers’ works fantastically as the story hits all the right notes, such as the group of characters coming together by spending time with each other, while avoiding the cliche’d pitfalls that comes with the trope. Even though David has a manly heart to heart with Kenny, (Poulter) advising him on matters of women, and how to summon his courage, when it comes time for Kenny to use that theoretical wisdom, it’s rendered moot as Rose (Anniston) steps in and saves the day. It’s a hilarious undercutting of the previous scene and properly displays how inempt David actually is when fatherly responsibility is thrust upon him, despite being Kenny’s proxy father throughout the movie.
The film also works due to the pacing, which only takes departures from the main plot, to create small distractions that prevent the story from getting too one not and dragged out. While David is in a rush to deliver the drugs, thereby clearing his name and escaping the murderous Mexican overlord chasing them, too much of that depiction would get stale and quick. So the plot is broken up by detours involving another family on vacation, who are as genuinely cheery as the fake Millers were pretending to be. With Nick Offerman (‘Parks And Recreation’) and Kathryn Hahn (‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’) leading that family, the hilarity ensues when the Pleasantville family wants to swing with Rose & David, albeit still in a horribly PG-13 way.
What Barely Works
While Jennifer Anniston is one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, her role here of a stripper felt very forced and almost as if it was attempting to prove a point. The gorgeous actress who is widely known for her role in the classic hti TV Series ‘Friends’, attempts something that she never has before, in maybe her most explicit role to date. While the scenes of her exotic dancing are done very tastefully by Director Rawson Marshall Thurber, they felt necessary in the over all narrative of the film. What might have provided more comedic fodder is if they included meta humour, mocking the actresses possible maturity as a stripper in order to play on Anniston’s own real life status as an aging actress in Hollywood.
As mentioned earlier, while most dysfunctional family comedies start out a certain way and usually follow a formula that has the character through a fun and adventure filled journey, sometimes both literally and figuratively, the end almost always becomes rife with heavily emotional dialogue, a coming together and forgiving of all the antics and plot points are resolved very quickly in an almost melodramatic manner. This something similar happens at the end of ‘We’re The Millers’, the characters never differ from their steady portrayals, or their personalities as established by the rest of the film.
While the film ends with all characters still together, despite not actually being bonded by blood, or a real family, it’s more of a forced together-ness which further fuel the dysfunction which begins the story in the first place; being together due to a necessity than choice. What keeps things fresh and light, ending on a very uplifting note always, is the fact that the film ends with the group being just as surly, anti social and as they had originally started off being. This consistent portrayal of the characters, progresses the film even more, with characters who, while they grow through the movie, don’t have unrealistically over exaggerated changes to their personality, but rather grow while adapting to each other, and almost becoming a real family of misfits by the end.