By Gary Dowell
Boasting a strong comedic cast in a dull, unfunny, uninspired, and formulaic comedy, We’re the Millers is one of this summer’s biggest missed opportunities.
The central idea should have been a rich vein of comedy gold: A 40ish pot-dealer past his slacker prime named David (Jason Sudeikis) gets rolled by hoodlums and winds up in debt to his mega-rich supplier Brad (Ed Helms, the only one involved with the sense to go over-the-top). Brad’s willing to call it even-stevens if David will smuggle a “smidge” of marijuana from Mexico to Denver within a few days.
David is well aware of the fact that he is a low-level dealer and not an experienced smuggler, and decides his best bet to get across the border is to blend in with the tourists by recruiting a Rockwellian family and travelling via a motor home. He has to settle for his fellow down-and-out neighbors: stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston) as his stunt-wife and bellicose street rat Casey (Emma Roberts) and sad sack latch-key kid Kenny (Will Poulter) as his faux children. Of course, they mostly can’t stand each other and are in it for the money, except for Kenny — this is the closest thing to a family he’s ever had, and for him it’s a bizarre kind of personal bliss.
The smidge of pot turns out to be a half-ton or so of the stuff which fills the RV to capacity. Throw in an angry Mexican cartel and a more convincingly naive Middle American family, the Fitzgeralds (Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn) and wackiness ensues.
Well, occasionally. The performances are mostly pretty good, but the actors are limited by underdeveloped characters and anemic material. It took two writing teams – Bob Fisher and Steve Faber (Wedding Crashers) and Sean Anders and John Morris (Hot Tub Time Machine) — to churn this one out, and both seem to be holding back. We’re the Millers travels the well-trod comedy ground of false identities, close calls, and fish-out-of-water misunderstandings, but does so in such broad strokes that gags feel forced and the conclusion — that this mismatched ad hoc family will bond into a real one — is visible from a mile away. Real-life road trips can be long and tedious, but rarely quite like this.