Jen’s lat­est strips its wits

The Millers take a fake sum­mer hol­i­day, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

JENNIFER Anis­ton’s hol­i­day road trip, We’re The Millers, is an iden­tity com­edy with iden­tity is­sues. Ja­son Sudeikis plays a pot dealer who, as a dis­guise for smug­gling a huge ship­ment of weed, forms a fake fam­ily to drive an RV across the Mex­ico bor­der.

He gath­ers lo­cal strip­per Rose (Jennifer Anis­ton), surly home­less teenager Casey (Emma Roberts) and his young, naive neigh­bour Kenny (Will Poul­ter).

The whole con­cept has two mo­tives: to lam­poon the idea of the tra­di­tional all-Amer­i­can fam­ily and as an ex­cuse to get Anis­ton to take off her clothes.

Both are wor­thy en­deav­ours, but ev­ery­thing in We’re The Millers feels forced – a hodge­podge of comedic rhythms made to lurch from one crude gag to an­other.

De­spite ob­vi­ous comedic tal­ents, Sudeikis and Anis­ton have each had dif­fi­culty find­ing their place in the movies and nei­ther re­ally fit their parts – small-time Den­ver pot dealer (dis­patched for the pick-up by Ed Helms’ po­lite but ruth­less drug lord) and bit­ter strip­per with a heart of gold, re­spec­tively.

The con­cealed iden­tity shtick would have been more fruit­ful if the char­ac­ters’ per­son­al­i­ties weren’t just as thin as their cha­rade.

How­ever, with such stereo­type un­der­pin­nings, We’re The Millers re­mains the broad­est of car­i­ca­tures. The film, too, comes from mixed sen­si­bil­i­ties. Wed­ding Crash­ers scribes Bob Fisher and Steve Fabe be­gan the script, fin­ished by Hot Tub Time Ma­chine writ­ers Sean An­ders and John Mor­ris.

Dodge­ball: A True Un­der­dog Story di­rec­tor Raw­son Mar­shall Thurber keeps the tone ap­pro­pri­ately breezy, but un­der­stand­ably strug­gles to find the right sense of tim­ing.

We’re The Millers aims for a nu­clear fam­ily farce, push­ing it one step fur­ther than its ob­vi­ous in­spi­ra­tion, National Lam­poon’s Sum­mer Va­ca­tion. Not only are they not the gleam­ing pic­ture of fam­ily life they might seem – they’re not even a real fam­ily.

This nat­u­rally opens up a realm of jokes along the lines of Kenny, in a kissing les­son, smooching his sup­posed mother and sis­ter.

Ev­ery pit stop is a chance for gra­tu­ity. There’s a camp-out with swingers (Nick Of­fer­man and Kathryn Hahn) and a run-in with pur­su­ing drug deal­ers that inanely turns into Anis­ton’s strip tease.

As she did in Hor­ri­ble Bosses (which also co-starred Sudeikis) the ac­tress trades on the thrill of her sex­u­al­ity, which wouldn’t be nec­es­sary if a good ro­man­tic com­edy script cap­tured her girl-next-door snark. But it’s start­ing to look un­likely she’ll ever find an­other The Good Girl – or is re­ally seek­ing it.

As a diver­sion, one could do worse. Sudeikis’s smartalec, Mid­west charm, mask­ing a more de­vi­ous instinct, does a lot to carry the film.

The for­mer Satur­day Night Live player has strug­gled to tran­si­tion to lead­ing man roles, though he showed prom­ise in the lit­tle-seen A Good Old Fash­ioned Orgy.

But he’s strain­ing here to keep the ship righted. When the end-credit bloop­ers roll, Sudeikis and Anis­ton, free of the con­trived plot, look like they’re fi­nally hav­ing fun.

We’re the Millers.

We’re The Millers is screen­ing now.

Jennifer Anis­ton, Will Poul­ter, Emma Roberts and Ja­son Sudeikis in

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