Hollywood comedies aren’t having a good run. With the key ingredients more often than not appearing to be bloat, nastiness and a notable lack of laughs, it’s depressing to see the likes of Identity Thief and The Hangover sequels taking in nine figure hauls, off the back of flimsy scripts and a unhealthy dose of unpleasantness. It doesn’t seem to matter if the films make us laugh any more, they just have to appeal to a demographic more interested in people behaving badly than good, quality jokes.
Which means that We’re The Millers, the latest film from Dodgeball director Rawson Marshall Thurber, instantly feels a little different. Because whilst We’re The Millers has quite a few problems, it does actually deliver on the key reason for existence for a comedy movie: it’s funny. It’s mainly gentle chuckles, but with a couple of good guffaws. And then, there’s a fun selection of outtakes over the end credits. Nothing complicated, nothing over the top. Just a liberal sprinkling of funny stuff. Unashamedly funny stuff. It feels, and it shouldn’t, really quite refreshing.
The basic set-up of the film is centred around a weed dealer, played by Jason Sudeikis, who needs – for speedily contrived reasons – to put together a fake family in order to smuggle a large amount of drugs over the Mexican border. He does this for his old friend, and now very rich drug lord, played by Ed Helms, in a cameo that never really clicks (even if his over the top office is a hoot). And his fake family features a stripper who lives in his apartment block (Jennifer Aniston), a tearaway teen girl (Emma Roberts) and the nerdy guy, also from his apartment block (Will Poulter, and appendage).
This basically sets the stage for a road trip, and quite a baggy one. We’re The Millers tries to cram a lot in, from individual issues with each of the characters, a wronged drug lord and a fellow campervan family (led by the wonderful Nick Offerman, in totally scene-stealing form). And with all of this to resolve, and no surprises in how it does so, that does mean that the final third plods through an awful lot of work.
But then, it also remembers to fuse in enough laughs, so that just when it’s all beginning to feel a little bit tiring, We’re The Millers does something to get your attention (we’re not talking about Jennifer Aniston’s well-publicised on-screen striptease either). Of particular merit is Will Poulter, who’s not used as much as we’d like, but his mix of gleeful, nerdy innocence is brilliant, and really very funny. Sudeikis is an excellent lead for the ensemble too, happily convincing you that he’s covered in shades of grey, even though he’s a man keen to ultimately do the right thing.
We’re The Millers might not be a particularly sophisticated film, and it aims its humour relatively low. A deep and clever comedy this is not. But if you’re after entertainment, good laughs, and a comedy calling card for Will Poulter, then it’s comfortably the best mainstream Hollywood comedy of the year so far. Appreciating that the competition isn’t particularly tough, that’s still a tag it deserves.
We’re The Millers is out in the UK on the 23rd August.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.