Sunday, August 18, 2013

We’re the Millers / *** (R)

David Clark: Jason Sudeikis
Rose O’Reilly: Jennifer Aniston
Kenny Rossmore: Will Poulter
Casey Mathis: Emma Roberts
Brad Gurdlinger: Ed Helms
Don Fitzgerald: Nick Offerman
Edie Fitzgerald: Kathryn Hahn
Melissa Fitzgerald: Molly Quinn

Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema present a film directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Written by Bob Fisher & Steve Faber and Sean Anders & John Morris. Running time: 110 min. Rated R (for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug content, and brief graphic nudity).

There’s an old entertainment adage that states that comedy is hard. It’s always assumed that means it’s hard to perform, or direct, or just pull off in general. In my acting days—which hopefully aren’t entirely behind me—I found comedy to be rather easy to pull off. It came naturally to me. I was good at acting goofy, and it didn’t always require those “real” emotions that, for me were always a little harder to connect with inside. I suppose this is also the case for many comedic actors, most especially actors like the ones that inhabit the cast of the movie “We’re the Millers”.

No, what is so hard about comedy is getting critics to admit they liked it. For some reason critics have a habit of looking for the deeper meanings in things, some sort of message to take away from it all. There are some comedies that do that, but usually comedies are just about making people laugh. As long as you’re willing to endure some loss of your usual comfort zone, “We’re the Millers” delivers on the laughs. I laughed. I don’t understand how most critics didn’t.

“We’re the Millers” starts off with David Clark, a low level drug dealer who caters mostly to the specialty marijuana market in the greater Denver area. He deals to stay at home moms, business men, coffee house regulars… you know, the “Weeds” market. He’s unassuming, and nice enough about it, although he doesn’t really seem to like people much. Perhaps that’s why he never settled into a regular nine to five career.

His neighbor is a stripper, Rose. Not her real name. He likes her, but her career seems to have given her even less of an appreciation for other people than David has. There’s a kid, Kenny, in their apartment building whose parents when out drinking and haven’t come back yet. They went out two weeks ago. One night Kenny decides to play hero to a homeless girl in distress at the hands of some unsavory types across the street. The girl is Casey. Realizing that Kenny has bit off more than he can chew, David intervenes and ends up being robbed by the thugs. This is a problem because he owed his supplier almost $50,000 from the sales of his current batch of weed. Thus David graduates from drug dealer to drug smuggler.

To make up for his missing money David agrees to go to Mexico to pick up a shipment and bring it across the boarder. Seeing an RV get out of a traffic violation one day he realizes a family road trip is the perfect cover for drug smuggling. He recruits Rose to be his wife and Kenny and Casey to be their kids for the strangest family road trip anyone’s ever taken.

SNL’s Jason Sudeikis makes for a very natural leading comedian as David. He rolls his everyman qualities into a nice parody of the patriarchal figure of a fake family. His contrasting down to Earth drug dealer persona makes it easy for him to bring out the anxiety of trying to head a group of people through a stressful situation. Jennifer Aniston is also fairly laid back as Rose. She’s as natural in her soccer mom get up as she is in her skimpy stripper lingerie. Her ability to bring everyone back to reality works in her character’s favor.

Will Poulter, who was the only interesting thing about “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Trader”, is the break out star of the movie as Kenny. He has the most shocking moment of the movie which involves Hitchcock’s theory that letting the audience know there is a bomb under the table that may explode is more effective than just having that bomb explode. The bomb in this case is a spider and the eventual explosion will cause you to look away despite how quickly the film’s editor cuts away. Emma Roberts, as Casey, proves that a teenage girl with a family has the same basic life outlook as a homeless person—the people who know her can never understand her situation and life can’t get any worse.

The supporting cast adds as much joy to the proceedings as the main cast. Ed Helms plays David’s untraditional drug supplier kingpin. He buys a killer whale because he’s not into cars. Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn play another vacationing couple RVing with their cute daughter, Molly Quinn of “Castle”. They open the film up to some very uncomfortable situations, involving in order, a baby, Pictionary, and swinging. And a carnival employee (Mark L. Young) brings attention to some people’s annoying speech patterns. ‘Know what I’m sayin’?

No, “We’re the Millers” offers no deep insights into what it takes to be part of a family. It isn’t a realistic plot about the drug trade in America. It’s funny. That’s what it’s supposed to be. I laughed frequently. That’s what a comedy is supposed to make happen. After I left the theater, I felt the way you might after you’ve seen a stand up comic perform. That’s the way you should leave a comedy feature, like you’ve been freed of something through laughter.

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