I can’t remember the last really good road trip movie we’ve received. I can remember some of them, but not the last one. That’s because there have been so many failed attempts at the genre that I’m surprised people still even go to see them; yet one of the worst films this year, Identity Thief, made about $100 million over its budget domestically, creating more concern from me for our human race. The last time someone tried to make a film centered on a family traveling in an RV, we literally got a film called RV. Need I say more about that attempt? Well, once again Hollywood is taking a crack at the road trip comedy with We’re the Millers which sort of drives right on through.
Whether it is because of the lack of good comedies this year, I’m not sure, but I laughed at We’re the Millers throughout quite a bit. The plot is so simple that it gives enough fresh air to just enjoy the film and not have to worry about following along without missing a plot point. David (Jason Sudeikis) has been a drug dealer since college and lives in an apartment building with Rose (Jennifer Aniston), a stripper, as his neighbor. There is a nerdy, innocent, teenager named Kenny (Will Poutler) who just wants to be David’s friend; and no group would be without the troublemaker like Casey (Emma Roberts). The build-up to meeting these characters is so fast that it does feel that they are a cumulation of by the numbers clichéd people, but it’s the execution that makes it work.
Dave’s college friend and employer, Brad (Ed Helms), asks him to travel in a motor home down to Mexico, pick up what he calls a “smidge and a half” of weed, cross the border again, and bring it back to Denver all for $100,000. Figuring he won’t be able to do it without getting caught, he bribes along Rose, Kenny, and Casey to change their appearance to a good-hearted American family and travel with him. Their transformation isn’t nearly as funny as I think director Rawson Marshall Thurber and the four writers think it is, which is the major downfall of the film. When you have a film about really bad people pretending to be good people, we should be in on the joke. Instead we have four unlikable characters pretending to be likable characters, and then make offhand comments to make us laugh. It works, but not to the extent it could have.
Once they get to Mexico and get the drugs, the film takes a predictable turn in that Dave wasn’t the guy that was supposed to show up and now you have a drug kingpin, Pablo Chacon (Tomer Sisley), and his henchman traveling to get his drugs back. Why road trip movies always seem to need someone chasing after out protagonists, I still cannot answer, but it is less silly here than I’ve seen recently and doesn’t go an extra level by adding one extra character. From the moment Dave and co. leave Mexico and start toward their final destination, the film does go into miscellaneous gags as most films of this type do, but they mostly hit here and once again doesn’t go off the rails. You never feel like you just want them to get home, but are enjoying these character’s interactions enough to warrant more from them.
I think We’re the Millers works best when it brings these four characters together alone. As I mentioned earlier, when around other people these characters don’t have enough fun masking their real personas; when they’re alone together and are their actual characters, the comedy jumps exponentially to bringing some really funny moments. Sequences involving both Sudeikis and Aniston being themselves, yet acting like parents feels sweet and that these characters are becoming a real family. Then when they are dealing with other people they almost go numb with dumbness. They are continually breaking character, making stupid decisions, and ruining their whole mission, but when they’re alone it works well. Consistency would have been nice in the writers’ room.
There is a major halt in pacing when the third act comes around, which matches with the plot in some respects, but is used just to add more emotional depth between these characters and not all of it works. They try to tie in one of the most predictable third act moments in all of film history and it falls flat on its face. I appreciate when the film comes around with the fact that these are despicable characters who have no morals, but then they shouldn’t have had most of the third act being about these characters showing their emotions.
As character consistency goes, We’re the Millers is a mess. The only characters you like on a moral standpoint are Kenny and the Fitzgeralds (Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, and Molly C. Quinn), because they actually make the right choices throughout the film. As for the rest of the movie, there are a lot of laughs to be had. Even the little things give you chuckles here and there, but I had many good laughs while watching this. All around it is a middling movie, but as a comedy it works on that right alone. We’re the Millers does not give me faith that the road trip genre has any form of originality to it, but it can still entertain me for two hours. Then again, this entertains modern audiences every time.
The Good: many good laughs, simplicity gives some fresh air to the road trip genre.
The Bad: there are of course some missed jokes, predictable.
The Ugly: character inconsistencies, not many characters are likable.