Here, I am proving something: I don’t just watch science fiction and fantasy movies. I also watch fairly terrible comedies.
While We’re The Millers is not a terrible film, it really, really wishes it had been produced by Judd Apatow. And it really, really wasn’t.
This follows the exploits of a drug dealer who has all his money stolen before he can pay his supplier. In order to avoid some serious harm, he agrees to smuggle some marijuana across the border from Mexico into the United States. In order to provide cover for the job, he hires a stripper, a homeless girl and the slightly weird kid who lives next door to be his fake family. The idea is that they hire a motor home, fill it with weed and then drive it across the border, because no one would suspect a family on holiday to have a shit ton of green on board. Cue hijinks.
I don’t have a lot more to say about it, other than it was entertaining and gave me a few chuckles.
Most of the actors in this film have a background in TV comedy. It has Jason “Saturday Night Live writer” Sudeikis, Jennifer “Friends” Anniston, Ed “The Office” Helms, and Nick “Parks & Recreation” Offerman in it. All are proven, quality comedy actors. The failing here is just that it just isn’t that funny.
Comedy is probably the hardest gig in Hollywood. My idea of good comedy is I’m Alan Partridge, Arrested Development and Community, all of which are fairly niche products. In terms of generally popular comedy, I love The Inbetweeners, Friends and Parks and Recreation. Friends being one of the most globally popular TV comedies ever made, which it absolutely earned. The last film I saw which I found genuinely funny was Ted (and that was largely because it was aimed squarely at nerds of my age group). My point here is that your list of what constitutes good comedy is probably very different to mine and that’s why comedy is so hard: if you want general appeal, you risk being so bland, you’re not funny, but if you want highbrow, you risk alienating people.
I name dropped Judd Apatow earlier because the comedies he has produced (not the ones he has written and directed), such as Stepbrothers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad, Drillbit Taylor, The Five Year Engagement and a ton of others, were all pretty decent films with a similar vein of humour. You know, the slightly wrong, cleverer than it ought to be character based humour. And this film clearly wants to be one of those movies. And it’s almost there, the actors are good and the story has the chops to carry you through, it just doesn’t have the script.
One thing the movie does do really well is show the fake family becoming a real family through shared experience. Face it, as soon as you read the words ‘fake family’ earlier, you knew exactly where the plot was going. And while obvious, it was actually done well and for once, I actually bought them coming together as a family unit.
I think the problem with this film is that it doesn’t have the edge that Judd Apatow movies generally do. Whether it is his direct influence or some other reason connected to him (maybe he has a crack production team he re-uses? Or just crack?), the comedies I name-checked earlier all have a certain something about them. It’s too ‘feel good’, even down to the nicey-nice ending.
So We’re The Millers. It’s not awful but it’s just not very good either. It’s too risqué to be a family movie and too upbeat to be offbeat. I guess, given the subject matter, you either go full bore or you go home. I’m guessing Jennifer Anniston wishes she did.
TL:DR “Comedy movie which goes too far to be family friendly but not far enough to be genuinely funny. Not without its moments but there aren’t enough.”