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We're the Millers (2013) Blu-ray Review

By Nov 26, 2013 08:59 AM EST
Ah, improv. A seasoned filmmaker's greatest ally; an indecisive director's most fearsome foe. With We're the Millers, Rawson Marshall Thurber (best known for Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) allows his F-bombing stars to go off script so fully and frequently that the scattershot comedy plays like a series of recurring sketches featuring SNL alum Jason Sudeikis. Some of the hastily assembled sketches gel, some not so much; an issue only aggravated by the film's extended cut, which adds nine minutes of off-map hijinks to an already exhausting road trip. That doesn't mean there aren't laughs to be had, and plenty of them. If nothing else, We're the Millers is at least funny. Laugh-out-loud hilarious even... every once in a while. Its most memorable bits are sporadic and strewn about at random, with smaller gags stealing thunder from trailer-worthy standouts with Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn swiping scene after scene from the Miller clan.

When drug dealer David Clark (Sudeikis) is robbed of his stash and profits by a gang of knife-wielding street thugs, he has little choice but to go on a smuggling run to Mexico for his ludicrously wealthy supplier, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms). There's just one real obstacle in his path: the Mexican/American border. It isn't long, though, before inspiration strikes. David realizes there's no better way to be inconspicuous than to be so in-your-face obnoxious that no one will possibly suspect any criminal activity. Hiring a "family" for the weekend -- stripper Rose O'Reilly (Jennifer Aniston), teen runaway Casey Mathis (Emma Roberts) and dim-witted neighbor Kenny Rossmore (Will Poulter) -- the newly docile Mr. Clark makes his way south. The con? Pose as bumbling Midwestern tourists and watch as the border patrol officers simply wave the Miller family RV through the checkpoint. No questions asked.

Nothing goes as planned, of course, and the border proves to be the only thing David didn't need to worry about. Between transporting a far larger shipment of Marijuana than he anticipated, the bickering Clarks have to deal with everything from a busted radiator to a poisonous spider, stay one step ahead of a vindictive drug lord (Tomer Sisley) and his one-eyed henchman (Matthew Willig), and keep the friendly folks helping them with their incapacitated RV -- kindly DEA agent Don Fitzgerald (Nick Offerman), his naive wife Edie (Kathryn Hahn) and their daughter Melissa (Molly Quinn) -- in the dark. Oh, and there's the small matter of bringing Gurdlinger's shipment in on time. What's a fake dad to do? Rally the family and pull off the biggest crime of his career, that's what.

It's clear Sudeikis, Aniston, Roberts and Poulter had a blast shooting We're the Millers. The David/Rose romance is a bit stiff, if you'll pardon the pun, but the four actors bring a lot of heart to an R-rated romp that could have started and ended at raunch. Offerman and Hahn spice things up brilliantly, with an aw-shucks spark and country cookin' chemistry that's too perfect for words. (And perfect enough for a spin-off flick all their own.) Granted, the baddies are the stuff of pure genre parody, with little bite and even less menace, but as cringe-inducing comedy criminals go, Helms, Sisley and Willig hold their own. (Helms especially, whose white collar kingpin spends his millions with unbridled joy.) Yet the cast is at its finest when simple, unexpected family drama spills over into the smuggling run, when arguments erupt between mom and dad, or when Casey brings a boy (Mark L. Young) home from the carnival.

Other bigger, badder sequences, though, are only meant to be laugh riots. Most of them are much too conventional to shock or titillate, and most of them fail. Adult comedies are now the norm. PG-13 fare is a dying breed, especially in the age of the extended, unrated, super-smutty director's cuts. Gross out gags are losing their sting. Nudity barely registers (not that there's much here). Swollen testicles are good for a wince, nothing more. F*** is becoming less of a four-letter word and more of a go-to cry of improvisational desperation. Sharper comedies are smarter comedies, and We're the Millers isn't exactly smart comedy. Ten years ago it would have killed. And while that may be more of a commentary on genre desensitization than the state of Thurber's latest effort, it's strange to see just how domesticated once-edgy material has become.

We're the Millers looks every bit as good as a recent theatrical release should, with a striking 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation that's free from unruliness or unsightly issues of any sort. Colors are warm and vivid (particularly when David and his new family head south of the border), skintones are quite lifelike and well-saturated (particularly given the sun-bleached nature of many exterior shots), black levels are deep, and contrast is strong and consistent. Detail is excellent too, with clean edges and nicely resolved textures. Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track follows suit. While We're the Millers is a dialogue-driven film from beginning to end, a handful of fist fights, mad dashes and surprise attacks keep things alive and kicking. Voices are clear, intelligible and neatly prioritized in the mix.

Special Features:

  • Extended Cut: The Blu-ray release of We're the Millers includes two versions of the film: a 110-minute theatrical cut and a 119-minute extended director's cut.
  • Stories from the Road: But on to the special features. First up are seven quick-hit, Focus Point-style production featurettes, including "Extreme Aniston," "The Miller Makeovers," "Road Trippin' with the Millers," "Don't Suck Venom," "Getting Out of a Sticky Situation," "I Am Pablo Chacon" and "Rollin' in the RV."
  • Millers Unleashed - Outtakes Overload: Rather than an outtake reel, which comes later, this behind-the-scenes featurette looks at the process of casting improvisational actors and giving them free reign to play with the script as written.
  • Livin' It Up with Brad: Behold! The inner-workings of Ed Helms' Brad Gurdlinger.
  • When Paranoia Sets In: A tongue-in-cheek smuggling short.
  • Deleted Scenes: Eight rather long deleted and extended scenes.
  • Gags & More Outtakes: Fairly standard stuff, although there's a few laughs to be had.

We're the Millers isn't starved for comedic sustenance, that's for sure. Sudeikis and company give it their all, but with a script that doesn't quite tap its premise's potential and a director too eager to let his actors chart the film's course, the Millers' road trip is a bit too erratic. Funny? Oh yes. Smart? No. Warner's Blu-ray release, meanwhile, offers a terrific video presentation, a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and a decent assortment of special features, enough to make We're the Millers a perfect rainy night rental. And some of you will even enjoy it enough to add it to your collection.

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MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 109 minutes
Distributed By: Warner Bros.

For more information about We're the Millers visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. This release has been provided to FlickDirect for review purposes.

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