We're the Millers (MA 15+)
Rating: 2/5 stars
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Actors: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Ed Helms
The genesis of We're the Millers goes back to 2006, when the writers of the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson hit Wedding Crashers decided to pitch a comedy about the Mexican drug traffic. It proved a hard sell. Funny, that.
Steve Buscemi was to star with The Full Monty's Peter Cattaneo as director. Time passed and it was rewritten as several would-be directors and stars came and went. Now it has reached the screen with Jason Sudeikis, the Saturday Night Live comic, in the Buscemi role and Jennifer Aniston co-starring as a pole-dancing stripper – a vast improvement on the part she played when she and Sudeikis last worked together. That was in Horrible Bosses, which had her cast as a lascivious dentist trying to force her male assistant into having sex with her on top of an unconscious patient.
The Hangover's Ed Helms, playing a drug lord. Dapper and ever-smiling with teeth like piano keys, he keeps a pet orca that turns out to be considerably more hilarious than he is.
Dave (Sudeikis), a small-time dealer, works for him, delivering modest orders of marijuana to the locals in his Denver neighbourhood until the day things go horribly wrong. He is mugged and robbed of both his drugs and his takings. The only way he can settle his debt is to become a smuggler. He must agree to go to Mexico and transport an undisclosed amount of marijuana back across the border.
Realising that he looks exactly what he is, he decides to disguise himself as a family man. And for that he needs a family. His 18-year-old neighbour Kenny (Will Poulter) is recruited to play the part of his son and Aniston's Rose, who is completely broke after quitting her job, is persuaded to set aside her aversion to him for a while and go along as his wife. Casey (Emma Roberts), a homeless teenager, completes the menage and after a few radical hair and wardrobe changes, they set off for Mexico in a motor home.
Parks and Recreation work so hard in trying to turn them into unforgettable comic grotesques that it is exhausting, and that is not funny.
Miraculously, there are no fart jokes but a scene that has a spider crawling into Kenny's shorts supplies the gross-out moment that is now compulsory in today's rom coms and buddy movies.
Sudeikis is not bad. There is some fun to be had in watching his transformation from rumpled slacker into Mr Neat with bright eyes, eager air and square haircut with quiff. He manages to keep himself on the edge of hysteria throughout, which is a feat in itself.
Aniston, in contrast, phones in her usual performance. The modified striptease she turns on at one stage has more gusto than she brings to anything else in the film. At other times, her characteristic sangfroid looks more like boredom than ever. I am guessing she is growing tired of playing straight woman to all the comics who have migrated to rom coms from stand-up and Saturday Night Live. And who can blame her? I wonder if she ever feels nostalgic for the comedy of character that animated her TV launching pad, Friends. I know I do.