Film review: ‘Millers’ sets its GPS for funny, ends up at revolting

Film review: ‘Millers’ sets its GPS for funny, ends up at revolting
From left Casey Mathis (Emma Roberts), Rose O'Reilly (Jennifer Aniston), David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) and Kenny Rossmore (Will Poulter) in "We’re The Millers.” Photo by Michael Tackett

“We’re the Millers” tries and fails to invigorate its pointless narrative with gross-out moments, as well as trapping a run-of-the-mill cast with endless amounts of vulgarities in virtually every scene you witness on the big screen. 

Small-time drug dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) sells marijuana to a wide variety of clients, except for kids—after all, he needs to keep a low profile.

After a local gang jumps him and steals his stash and his profits, his boss/supplier (Ed Helms) offers a proposition: smuggle a shipment of marijuana from Mexico into the United States and all debts are settled.

Getting past customs won’t be easy, however, as security is tight and anyone transporting drugs solo is bound to raise eyebrows.

So, David hires a stripper (Jennifer Aniston), a virgin teenage boy (Will Poulter), and a runaway teenage girl (Emma Roberts) to pose as a family—the Millers—headed south of the border to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend. But things get complicated when it is discovered that the marijuana David has been sent to obtain belongs to a notorious Mexican drug lord.

Anyone who remembers seeing “Dodgeball” should know that director Rawson Marshall Thurber is not one to shy away from using off-color humor to spice things up. But while that decision worked out well for that film to a certain degree, it doesn’t yield the same result here.

If you thought “Dodgeball” was bold, you’ll be surprised to see how much bolder—perhaps too much for its own good—“We’re the Millers” is.

Some of the film’s supposedly funniest highlights—Poulter getting bitten by a tarantula, Anniston performing a striptease, her and Sudeikis mistaking Poulter’s skateboard drawing for something else—are more gratuitous than amusing.

It didn’t take me too long to realize “We’re the Millers” was only employing raunchy humor to compensate for its obvious inadequacies, hoping to salvage something from what it knew to be a lost cause. It’s a shame when a comedy film such as this tries extra hard to elicit laughs when it knows it just can’t get the job done.

The quality of the story is…questionable, to say the least; it’s pretty much in the same boat as Robin Williams’ “RV,” only more obscene and irreverent.

Much like somebody who’s spent hours on the road trying to figure out which route he or she wants to take, the narrative plods along and ends up going nowhere, having not the slightest idea of how to pull itself together.

By the time the heart of “We’re the Millers” emerges, it is already too late for it to sink in, thanks to an inexhaustible plethora of crude jokes. It’s as if the film got high off its own supply and couldn’t shake off the effects to realize what mattered most.

Well, that’s what happens when you rely on a vulgarity-laden script to elevate something worse than a TV sitcom.

I wish I had something positive to say about all the cast members, but sadly, they don’t give me much reason to put in a good word for them—if any at all. Obviously this is Jason Sudeikis’ show, and much of the responsibility for leading the film falls to him.

He is the only possible exception here, for he actually starts off strong and crosses the finish line without many scratches.

In contrast, Jennifer Aniston lacks appeal or depth, which is hardly surprising. Not to mention, her striptease scene wasn’t all that fascinating to observe.

As intriguing as it is to see Emma Roberts play a role that is very different from what we’re used to seeing, her performance is more of an indicator of the symptoms this film suffers than a reprieve. Will Poulter spends much of his screen time wearing the same clueless facial expression from one scene to the next.

I’d advise you not to go on vacation with “We’re the Millers,” as the only destination you’ll be headed towards is disaster smothered in jokes so lewd you’ll want to pull over and empty your stomach out on the pavement before you even reach the border.

MPAA rating: R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity.
Run time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
Playing: In general release

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