Film review: We’re the Millers

posted at 12:31 pm on August 18, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Drug dealer David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) has a tough choice to make after getting robbed by local teens and coming up short on payment to his supplier. Either David can make a road trip to Mexico to bring back “a smidge and a half” of marijuana and risk getting caught by the Border Patrol, or he can have his legs broken. He decides to put together an ersatz family with his poverty-stricken stripper neighbor Rose (Jennifer Aniston), local homeless teen Casey (Emma Roberts), and hopelessly naive Kenny (Will Poulter). Will they learn to come together as a family before the Mexican cartel tracks them down and kills them?

Some mild spoilers below.

We’re the Millers doesn’t have a lot of surprises, but it does have more than a few laughs.  One of the surprises is the amount of heart that goes into the film, in the same sort of way that Judd Apatow films like The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up tend to sneak up on audiences.  My friend Phelim McAleer commented on it this week:

Without giving too much away, Phelim has a point. The family act that gets off to a rocky start in the beginning winds up becoming more of a reality later in the adventure, especially when danger seems to come from every direction.  Even more to Phelim’s point, the “family” begins to adopt a more conservative ethos the more time they spend pretending to relate to one another, and it turns out to be more than show — to their own surprise.  Shakespeare once wrote in Hamlet, “Assume a virtue, if you have it not,” as a prescription to absorb the virtue through habit of repetition.  The Millers end up doing this despite themselves, and despite their original mission.

Mostly, though, the film is predictable but funny enough to keep audiences engaged.  Sudeikis and Aniston provide more character development than laughs, but Poulter and Roberts do more as their “kids,” especially Poulter, who is hilariously square and a perfect foil for both the jokes and the transformation of the Millers.  Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn play a couple who keeps getting in the way of the Millers on their trip, whose daughter (perfectly cast Molly Quinn) is an obvious match for Poulter.  The rest of the cast is less remarkable, except for Matthew Willig as a fright-inducing cartel enforcer.

On the 5-point Hot Air scale, I give this a 4 for anyone truly seeking a laugh at the box office this summer. For everyone else, it’s at least a solid 3:

  • 5 – Full price ticket
  • 4 – Matinee only
  • 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
  • 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

We’re the Millers is rated R for “crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity.” For those readers who wonder, that last part doesn’t refer to Aniston, although she does do a couple of bump-and-grind sequences in the film.  It actually refers to Poulter, and it’s, er … not what you think.  Just don’t take a swig of soda when that scene occurs.  We’re the Millers is clearly not for children or teens, nor for those who are offended at drug references, even though the film ends up being somewhat anti-drug in the end.

Update: Another friend of mine, Steven Greydanus, strenuously objects:

Stephen also has a point, but I think he’s taking the farcical setups too seriously, and downplaying the underlying theme. However, it’s good to have his point of view when deciding whether to spend any cash on the film.


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Thanks for the review…

OmahaConservative on August 18, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Good review and trailer. I had previously not thought much about this movie, but would now like to see it.

myrenovations on August 18, 2013 at 12:39 PM

I won’t go to a theater for a movie unless Oprah explains it to me…

d1carter on August 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Just a clean wholesome film – drugs, strippers, and gangs.

faraway on August 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Yeah, just not in to spending movies glorifying drugs. Yay, normalization!

Darksean on August 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM

You just have to get past the marijuana part, why go to Mexico when you could go to Colorado or California or really just about anywhere? Harder drugs would keep the character from any sympathies I would imagine. I probably won’t go to the theater but I will keep it in mind for a rental.

Cindy Munford on August 18, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Where do they come up with such stupidity? Oh, right, Hollywood.

TeaTrekkie on August 18, 2013 at 12:46 PM

d1carter on August 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

You can’t afford that.

Cindy Munford on August 18, 2013 at 12:46 PM

We used to live by the border near Juarez. It is NO laughing matter in how they drug lords use young women and even families to bring drugs over here. I really take offense to this movie.

TeaTrekkie on August 18, 2013 at 12:49 PM

I have some movie bucks I have to spend.
I think I’ll see this – as a matinee.
Only $7 at my local theater if I see the first show of the day.

22044 on August 18, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Gotta say that Jenifer Aniston is like wine. Gets better looking with age.

tom2789 on August 18, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Ron Swanson is in it – that’s a plus.

22044 on August 18, 2013 at 12:57 PM

Nope. Won’t support Hollywood.

SouthernGent on August 18, 2013 at 1:01 PM

Neighbors’ daughter works at the local theater. Last night, we asked her what is popular in the theaters right now. (We haven’t been to a movie at all this summer.) She said Jobs seemed to be more popular than “The” Oprah movie. She said, people came out of Jobs saying it was good. Huh. Didn’t even think to ask her about this one.

Fallon on August 18, 2013 at 1:03 PM

SouthernGent on August 18, 2013 at 1:01 PM

Agreed. Even if a movie I really want to see comes around I will not go to the theater to see it. Matter of principle…

OmahaConservative on August 18, 2013 at 1:04 PM

And, I don’t particularly like Judd Apatow films. So, I think we’ll continue our summer of no money to Hollywood.

Fallon on August 18, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Yet another hollywood attempt to paint the most productive, sane class of America – white middle-class conservatives – as having a boatload of vices under their skin-deep facade of ‘normal’. It’s the latest crusade for liberal equality which they can only obtain by dragging everyone else that has a brain, a job, and a life down into the mud. I’d half expect for them to portray siblings flirting with each other or Confederate dishrags flying proud.

Know what I’d like? I’d like to see them do a movie based on real-life Democrat minority ‘families’, where they would have to tone down the traits and actions of the main characters so filmgoers didn’t think it was insanely exaggerated.

MelonCollie on August 18, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Just watched the trailer. Not impressed. I’ll wait for it to hit the “free” movies section (which I’m paying for anyway) on cable. That is, if I remember it’s there.

Nope, changed my mind. Think I’ll ignore it altogether.

PatriotGal2257 on August 18, 2013 at 1:25 PM

A fake family with a fake backstory in a work of farcical fakery. I would suggest anyone taking that setup too seriously really is a risible square.

Conservative attempts at cultural criticism is hard to take sometimes because many seem to take the setup for the farce at face value. Congrats to EM for not falling into that open pit that so many others seem to willfully stumble into.

dieudonne on August 18, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Gotta say that Jenifer Aniston is like wine. Gets better looking with age.

tom2789 on August 18, 2013 at 12:54 PM

I agree. And she’s not all “plastic surgery” either.

JetBoy on August 18, 2013 at 1:45 PM

I am amazed at what we accept from Hollyweird’s vapid wasteland as entertainment these days.

dddave on August 18, 2013 at 2:03 PM

Jennifer Aniston, the woman who donated over $2K to Barack Obama, plays a conservative? Go figure.

unclesmrgol on August 18, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Yeah, just not in to spending movies glorifying drugs. Yay, normalization!

Darksean on August 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM

I guess you won’t be seeing Rush Limbaugh‘s biopic by John Cusack.

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 2:23 PM

PatriotGal2257 on August 18, 2013 at 1:25 PM

What was the last movie you enjoyed? Hollywood? Indie? Christian? I’m interested in some new titles to queue up.

What sites do you guys like for streaming? Anybody download-for-free instead of going to movies to stick it to Hollywood?

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Jennifer Aniston, the woman who donated over $2K to Barack Obama, plays a conservative? Go figure.

unclesmrgol on August 18, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Rush Limbaugh got caught trafficking more than 2000 sex pills and he plays a law and order conservative. Go figure.

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Yeah, just not in to spending movies glorifying drugs. Yay, normalization!

Darksean on August 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM

I guess you won’t be seeing Rush Limbaugh‘s biopic by John Cusack.

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Yeah, ’cause John Cusack is such a conservative he won’t take liberties with the story.

Mitoch55 on August 18, 2013 at 2:31 PM

What was the last movie you enjoyed?

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 2:26 PM

This one.

sharrukin on August 18, 2013 at 2:37 PM

What was the last movie you enjoyed?

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 2:26 PM

This one.

sharrukin on August 18, 2013 at 2:37 PM

What Sharrukin said.

PatriotGal2257 on August 18, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Uh, drug dealers, murder, strippers, homeless teen, Mexico … what’s not to love?

Sounds like a loser-palooza.

Pork-Chop on August 18, 2013 at 3:00 PM

I have done 20+ road trips across the Mexican border for rock climbing, camping, and surfing. White Americans driving in Mexico always, always, always get stopped and thoroughly searched. Searched, as in unpack your entire car, all your camping gear, and stand on the side of the road answering questions in Spanglish for 45 minutes while soldiers with assault rifles and ninja outfits dig through every single suit case. You could count on getting stopped at least 4-6 times every trip. You would also get stopped by the American Border patrol on the way back in and searched completely by drug dogs, guaranteed. We call it ‘driving while gringo’.

We were never worried because we wouldn’t even carry aspirin or vitamins with us. We did get in trouble once because we were riding with friends in a nice double cab pick up truck, and the guy who owned it had let his dogs ride in it. At first, the soldiers did not believe that it was dog hair that was all over the seats and freaked out on us. Once we convinced them it wasn’t some new kind of drug, we all got an obscenity laced lecture about what stupid gringos we were for letting dogs ride inside the cab. A nice RV driven by gringos carrying a bunch of pot would not make it 10 miles without getting stopped and searched. The fact that they are a ‘family’ would make them more suspicious, not less.

That being said, this looks like a cute movie. I will probably go see it; I don’t really expect things like this to be realistic.

bitsy on August 18, 2013 at 3:14 PM

Ed, I can’t believe you actually went to that movie, much less reviewed it.

Midas on August 18, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Maybe I was put off by the fact that the trailer – complete with stripping scene and what seemed to be a pictionary game complete with people shouting out “it’s a big black penis” – was part of the pre-movie fare which at which my my family, including kids, found itself recently.

I mean, I guess that makes me a square, not caring for movie previews for my kids where the best laugh is “big black penis”.

So be it.

Midas on August 18, 2013 at 3:42 PM

A nice RV driven by gringos carrying a bunch of pot would not make it 10 miles without getting stopped and searched. The fact that they are a ‘family’ would make them more suspicious, not less.

That being said, this looks like a cute movie. I will probably go see it; I don’t really expect things like this to be realistic.

bitsy on August 18, 2013 at 3:14 PM

Many, many of my peers have stopped surfing Mex because of the taxes. Coming back stateside from Mexico is hit and miss. I’ve crossed into the US without being stopped numerous times. There is not time to stop every car; I think you overstate things a little. But smuggling is all about numbers. Send many across and sell what makes it.

Two surfers I know were strong-armed into traveling with an unwanted companion. They have never returned. Mexico sucks unless you’re out in the lineup surfing or maybe fishing.

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Yet another hollywood attempt to paint the most productive, sane class of America – white middle-class conservatives – as having a boatload of vices under their skin-deep facade of ‘normal’.

MelonCollie on August 18, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Sadly, most of our pundits are naive.

faraway on August 18, 2013 at 3:48 PM

Seriously, why would anyone go to Mexico ?

williampeck1958 on August 18, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Gotta say that Jenifer Aniston is like wine. Gets better looking with age.

tom2789 on August 18, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Your eyes are going bad.

rickv404 on August 18, 2013 at 4:20 PM

I’m sure Brian Terry ‘s family will think this movie is a hoot and will laugh along.
/
.
Lets plow as much cash into Hollywood so they can torpedo US in 2014/2016 just like they did 2012./
.
Do Not Feed The Beast Anymore.
(Red Box, if you have to.)

FlaMurph on August 18, 2013 at 4:34 PM

……But I still think Phelim and Ann are awesome just the same.

FlaMurph on August 18, 2013 at 4:36 PM

Many, many of my peers have stopped surfing Mex because of the taxes. Coming back stateside from Mexico is hit and miss. I’ve crossed into the US without being stopped numerous times. There is not time to stop every car; I think you overstate things a little. But smuggling is all about numbers. Send many across and sell what makes it.

Two surfers I know were strong-armed into traveling with an unwanted companion. They have never returned. Mexico sucks unless you’re out in the lineup surfing or maybe fishing.

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Nope. Not overstating it. We got searched every single time, either by American or Mexican authorities. The Mexicans are actually more interested in guns/ammo and livestock than drugs. On the American side they were looking for people, produce, and drugs. (We got a lecture from border patrol once about some limes we ‘smuggled’ in to the US). It does matter where in Mexico you are going. If you stay within 50 miles of the US it is not a big deal, but we always went farther than that. We usually went through Michoacan or Nuevo Leon which probably set off red flags, and we had 2 or 3 cars traveling together so all that definitely increased our chances of getting stopped. But at the very least, they always run a drug dog around your car while they look at your passport on the border.

We haven’t gone in a few years because we have small children, and we have switched to mountain biking in Colorado. I was never much a surfer, I was more into sitting on the beach and drinking beer. The rock climbing was mind blowing though. I don’t remember the taxes; I must not have been paying them, lol.

bitsy on August 18, 2013 at 4:40 PM

Ed, are you actually trying to argue that this tripe is somehow a conservative film with conservative values? *sigh*

Shump on August 18, 2013 at 6:28 PM

Two surfers I know were strong-armed into traveling with an unwanted companion. They have never returned. Mexico sucks unless you’re out in the lineup surfing or maybe fishing.

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 3:46 PM

My condolences, and I never thought I’d say that to you.

I worried for a female relative every minute when she went on her missions trip to Mexico. That place is barely two steps above a drug-lord-run banana republic.

MelonCollie on August 18, 2013 at 7:19 PM

MelonCollie on August 18, 2013 at 7:19 PM

I hear that.

I would not send my worst enemy into Mexico. I’ve been many times. The main draw was proximity to the US. Now, it’s not worth the risks or variable expense.

I simply could not endure the stress of a female family member being there now based on what I know after several visits just across the border and deeper.

bitsy on August 18, 2013 at 4:40 PM

I hear ya. I was actually told that I had been pretty lucky. Colorado is the best state without an ocean by far. Those mountains are just as fun inthe summer as they are in the winter.

Capitalist Hog on August 18, 2013 at 8:43 PM

Poulter was the bright spot in “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

He’ll have a bright future if he doesn’t sell his soul to Hollywood, and wind up as on “the young celeb death watch list (Bynes/Lohan/Beiber/etc)”.

The nudity part is not a good sign. Once you’re willing to go nude for the LA crowd what else have you got to sell?

PappyD61 on August 18, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Sort of OT: I definitely won’t see The Butler – due to its severe & offensive misrepresentations of history.

22044 on August 19, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Took the wife to see it yesterday at a matinee (before reading any reviews, etc), was surprisingly good (even though I guessed many of the joke setups). My only real issue was what happens at the border w/ the border guards… but that was an over the top thing (a bit too over the top).

kerncon on August 19, 2013 at 9:26 AM

the film is predictable but funny enough to keep audiences engaged

I will continue to choose the option that would starve Hollywood out of existence.

Keep in mind that everything you buy is the casting of a “vote”.
“Yes” I want more of the same.
“No” that should cease to exist.

$10 x 2 = $20
If that $20 is burning a whole in your pocket, give it to charity.

Note: Other than Aniston, I’ve never heard of any of the others herein mentioned. I’m confident that is a good thing (other than the Aniston part).

Carnac on August 19, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Jennifer Aniston, the woman who donated over $2K to Barack Obama, plays a conservative? Go figure.

unclesmrgol on August 18, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Well… she plays a lap-dancing stripper who, by the end of the movie is no doubt portrayed as being more normal than the ‘average middle-class mom’ type said stripper pretends to be so that she can help supply drugs to all the little kiddies in the nations schools. Other than that…

RalphyBoy on August 19, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Keep in mind that everything you buy is the casting of a “vote”.
“Yes” I want more of the same.
“No” that should cease to exist.

$10 x 2 = $20
If that $20 is burning a whole in your pocket, give it to charity.

Carnac on August 19, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Applies to rentals and even NetFlix (somebody is “counting” somewhere).

If you make something evil a “sympathetic” way-station to learning better values, and you make it “safe” by playing it for laughs, you will soon find it is accepted without either the repentance or the humor.

Keep supporting movies like this, and next season’s Oscar winner will be a comedy biopic about Ariel Castro.

AesopFan on August 19, 2013 at 2:32 PM

One of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.

nicktjacob on August 19, 2013 at 6:22 PM