David (Jason Sudeikis) is a drug dealer with a problem. After all his drugs and money are stolen in a tame mugging that escalates bizarrely he is tasked with collecting a large amount of weed from Mexico and bringing it back to the US in order to settle his debts with a tonally jarring crime lord played by Ed Helms. In order to raise minimal suspicion as he crosses the border David hires himself a family in the form of unemployed stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), sweet but neglected Kenny (Will Poulter), and homeless teen Casey (Emma Roberts). The four travel to Mexico in a giant RV and surprisingly few hijinks ensue.
We’re the Millers opens with quite a dark, almost angry, tone with each of the four main characters leading miserable lives and the only laughs coming from the bleakness of their existence, snide asides at one another, and a general sneering attitude towards happy families or anyone with a decent job. You might think that this is a brave choice, that making an essentially joyless comedy might allow it to stand out amongst the general mediocrity of mainstream comedy, but instead it produces a comedy that makes you feel sad and a little bored rather than wanting to laugh out loud.
The first third of the film is relatively uneventful as the Millers (as our faux-family like to be known) make it to Mexico and back with only minor set backs and with any conflict restricting to selfish bickering within the RV. Only once they have the characters back in America do the four (FOUR!!!) screenwriters realise that they need to conjure up some events to stop the film ending after 45 minutes and without anything going wrong. As such the film changes gears so forcibly it’s amazing it doesn’t break down like the Miller’s RV inevitably does (nice simile there).
Suddenly the Millers have driven from their slightly dull but pleasantly dark comedy into a road runner cartoon where a wrench to the face is only a minor inconvenience and any seemingly uptight couples are secretly looking to swing. Plot devices and characters are introduced one at a time to briefly amuse us before being discarded to make room for the next set piece to be awkwardly set up without any real flow in between. With a road trip comedy there is clearly too easy a temptation to essentially make a series of sketches tied together by a quartet of unlikable self-seekers. The result is a film that is far too long (110 minutes!!!), slightly incoherent, and nowhere near funny enough.
I will excuse Will Poulter who played Kenny from my unlikable and unfunny branding as he somehow manages to make his slightly wet character the only sympathetic person on-screen and is the source of the film’s few real laughs. Yes the film had some laughs, and some of them were genuine too. Occasionally though I would find my companion laughing and then looking deeply ashamed at himself. Sometimes in a comedy you laugh because you feel you should, not because anything particularly funny is happening. A portion of the audience at our screening did enjoy the film and a rather well spoken older lady sat behind us did the classic laugh-and-clap at least once. (Pre-screening eavesdropping revealed that she is worried that her lodger has a drinking problem but that’s not for us to worry about now.)
The occasional laugh spread out over 110 minutes is not enough compensation from the sheer boredom the rest of the film brings. The cast do what they can but ultimately there isn’t enough film for them to hold together. Despite being genuinely unpleasant to one another throughout we are encouraged to buy into a sudden shift towards the end that has them seeing themselves as a real family. This conclusion is not justified by anything that precedes it and shows the writers’ complete lack of commitment to any characterisation they could previous have claimed to have achieved.
In summary: Good grief.
We’re the Millers is released in the UK on 23rd August 2013 and frankly you’ve got better things to be doing.