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Weíre the Millers (6/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 109 minutes.

Not for children.

This is a moderately entertaining screwball comedy that isnít as funny as it could have been. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, whose only previous major outing was directing the disappointing comedy Dodgeball: A true Underdog Story (2004), a key to the problem with the film is indicated when one is aware that four screenwriters get credit and who knows how many others participated. Thatís a big clue to problems in production.

At the end of the film are outtakes from scenes that didnít make the cut. They show the actors trying out different lines from a few of the scenes. While, as is typical with outtakes, the actors thought they were funny, none of them actually were, which is probably why they didnít make the final cut.

Jason Sudeikis is a minor drug dealer who owes a lot of money to Ed Helms who plays a major crime kingpin who is more standup comic than vicious criminal. Helms offers to spare Jasonís life if heíll go to Mexico and pick up a load of marijuana, to which Jason reluctantly agrees. In order to get in and out of Mexico surreptitiously Jason recruits a ďfamilyĒ consisting of stripper Jennifer Aniston to be his wife, homeless street person Emma Roberts to be his daughter, and naÔve next door neighbor Will Poulter to be his son.

Itís not that their escapades are not humorous that makes this film fall short. Nor is it bad acting. Itís just that what happens, while humorous, is not laugh out loud funny.

This is a film that causes chuckles but no big laughs. One reason is that some of the sexual jokes are so graphic they tend to make one  uncomfortable rather than inducing laughter. Another thing that bothered me was seeing Aniston degrade herself acting as a stripper. It was too out of character for her and she did not do a good job of selling it. Sudeikis, Roberts, and Poulter, on the other hand are perfectly believable in their roles. Apart from being a stripper, however, Aniston does give an acceptable comedic performance.

There were some pretty good supporting performances. Matthew Willig stands out as a brutal bad guy and Luis GuzmŠn is appealing as a corruptible Mexican cop. Helms is acceptably over-the-top as a goofy crime boss. Finally, Mark L. Young makes a memorable appearance as a strange-talking guy to whom Roberts takes a shine near the end of the movie, clearly the best performance in the movie.

Give Alan Dwan, who directed the classic screwball comedies Up in Mabelís Room (1944) and Getting Gertieís Garter (1945), this script and these situations and the audience would have been rolling over themselves in the aisles laughing. One scene in particular had tremendous promise. Aniston and Roberts try to teach Poulter how to kiss. As it plodded along, I kept wishing that Dwan had had a shot at directing it. In Thurberís hands, however, it is only mildly amusing. And that sums up the entire film.

August 5, 2013