The problem with seeing Jennifer Anniston’s name in the credits of any film is that there is little doubt that what will be seen is Jennifer Anniston. Not that she isn’t a nice-looking woman, attractive without being threatening to either sex. Nor, from all reports, is she a bad person, as attested to by the legion of loyal friends and positive press, even tabloid, which has been known to go out of its way to smear celebrities whether they deserve it or not. The problem is that no matter what character she is playing, she is always Jennifer Anniston playing that character. No matter how depraved, as in HORRIBLE BOSSES, or tough, as her character, Rose, putatively is in WE’RE THE MILLERS, there is always perky, self-deprecating Jen peeking out and winking at the audience to reassure us that she is still the wonderful gal we’ve come to love, and, the wink goes on, isn’t it amazing how wicked I can pretend to be? And isn’t it amazing, the wink continues in an unaccountably wholesome way, how great my body is? Because, no matter what else the character demands of her, the stunning body is always and very forthrightly on display. Even when fully covered, the special tricks of her personal dresser and costumer make sure that each carefully toned curve is emphasized to the nth degree. And, thus, no matter how much good will we in the audience have towards her, she will not, even for a millisecond, let us forget that she is still our own sweet Jen, the one with the stiff upper lip, the tragic romantic backstory, and the sparkly, upbeat attitude in spite of it all. Alas, she also keeps reminding us, for this very reason, that she is also the star of a string of box-office flops that fail to cash-in on her celebrity. And so it is with WE’RE THE MILLERS, a film as carefully tailored for her image and her talents as those capri pants that Rose sports, loose yet somehow formfitting, particularly around the pert derierre that obviously cost a fortune in personal trainers.
A tepid script does not help. Painfully formulaic, dully directed, and wasting the feints of nihilistic edginess that Jason Sudeikis parries from time to time. He’s Dave, a good guy who has extended his college drug-dealing into his late thirties with nothing to show for it but a pile of cash and a loyal clientele of soft-serve recreational users. Circumstances beyond his control find him in death-defying debt to his boss, (Ed Helms), and tasked with bringing two tons of pot across the border from
If only it would.
Instead of fun there is a labored desperation to obvious plot devices and cliché humor. Of course everyone involved secretly longs for domestic bliss, despite loud, profane, and sustain protestations to the contrary. Throwing incestuous overtones does not help, nor does the otherwise fine presence of Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as actual squares with boundary issues and a skewed idea of swinging. They are two of the only things worth seeing. The other is Poulter, a young actor who, despite the morass in which he finds himself, finds subtle layers to his otherwise stock character of an 18-year-old virgin. There is an irresistible sweetness to his awkwardness coupled a bold, intriguing choice to not confuse inexperience with naiveté. This is not someone going through the paces by rote, as so many others in the film are. This guy refuses to let the schlock drag him down and kudos for him, both for the attitude, and managing to pull it off under the most difficult of conditions.
WE’RE THE MILLERS wastes a great deal of time, returning very little for the favor.