Movie Review: We’re The Millers

Jason Sudeikis (right) and Jennifer Aniston (left) lead an unorthodox trip in We're The Millers.
Jason Sudeikis (right) and Jennifer Aniston (left) lead an unorthodox trip in We’re The Millers.

At first I wasn’t too interested in seeing We’re The Millers back around when it opened across theatres August 7th. Well guess what? Its eighth weekend has passed and it’s still in the box office Top 10 so I figured I had to see why this is such a hit.

Before I review, I want to give the box office details that sparked my interest. When We’re The Millers first debuted at the box office, they were pitted that weekend against debuts from Elysium, Planes and the latest Percy Jackson movie that weekend. The big-budget Elysium was the winner that weekend with $29.8 million while We’re The Millers was second with $26.4 million. Actually Millers opened the Wednesday that week which gave them a healthy extra $9.5 million. That helped a lot in making back their $37 million budget that Sunday. The following weekend saw The Butler, which I will review at a later date, at the top with $24.6 million. As for last weekend’s debuters, the other three movies started to move down in terms of their weekend grosses while Millers remained in second with a healthy $18 million as compared to the humble $13.7 million Elysium racked up. Yeah, very humbling since Elysium came at a $115 million budget. The following week saw a repeat of the Top 2 with the Labor Day weekend only seeing the One Direction concert movie superseding the two. Even over the weekends in September, We’re The Millers still did consistently well and now sits at #9 in its eighth weekend with its total gross just recently passed the $140 million mark.

Firstly we have to admit that the situation of the comedy is humorously unusual. A veteran pot dealer has to make back money he lost by being a drug mule in Mexico for his boss. However being single makes him a dead giveaway to the police while families are often overlooked by the cops. So you have to admit creating a fake family with a runaway girl, a stripper neighbor who can’t stand him and a shy neglected boy in his block would make for an unusual premise and leave the audience wondering what will happen next. Having a bizarre drug-trading situation also adds to the story as well as another travelling family who’s uberfriendly and whose daughter captures the attention of Kenny adds too. Scenes like the strip-show getaway and the fake baby named Lebron add to the humor as well. The uberfriendly family having the father being a former FBI agent adds to the suspense in wondering what will happen next.  Many of the dramatic moments are somewhat predictable as you mostly know what will happen in the end but it’s still fun to see them played out. Also there are some surprise moments.

The actors themselves also added to the humor of the story. Jennifer Aniston is the one with the biggest resume in the movie. She has starred in hit after hit for so many years. Also adding to this is funny guy Jason Sudeikis. Many Saturday Night Live regulars in the past have gone on to bigger and better things once leaving, but it hasn’t happened to all of them. Very often the first few years after they leave determine whether their post-SNL success will be sink or swim. We’re The Millers is actually a very good boost for Jason Sudeikis. There’s no telling how far his next movies will go but Millers is already a good boost. Also good was the addition of Ed Helms. Funny thing that when I was watching this movie, I wondered if it was written by those involved with The Hangover because I saw a lot of similar humor elements. It wasn’t but including Ed as this off-the-wall cartoonish drug lord added to the humor. Makes you wonder how a yutz like Gurdlinger can be a successful kingpin. The young actors of Emma Roberts, Molly Quinn and Bill Poulter also added to the story as they appeared to be the ones closest to normal, even Casey the street girl. Actually I was surprised Poulter because I didn’t think he’d be the type for sexual slapstick or slapstick of any kind.

Another factor to the movie’s success could be as well is the timing of the movie. This comedy came as big-budget action flick after big-budget action flick were doing less than expected. It almost appeared the summer hype was fizzling out. I will admit that charmingly offensive humor doesn’t have the same heyday that it had back in the late 90’s-early 2000’s. You remember how gross out comedies like There’s Something About Mary, American Pie and Scary Movie surprised everyone by getting loads of people laughing with their low-brow humor and became bigger hits than expected. Since then there hasn’t been as mammoth of hits in the charmingly offensive comedy genre. Nevertheless it’s fair to say there was a steady diet of such thanks to the ‘Frat Pack’ or ‘Slacker Pack’ made up of Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson. They churned out comedies that kept everyone entertained continuously up until 2008 when people started to tire of them. Since then it hasn’t been as consistent but there have been some hits along the way. The first one being The Hangover. Its hit success proved that obnoxious and even lewd comedy could still draw good-sized crowds. Grown Ups soon followed. Last year was Ted. This year showed that the Hangover formula and the Grown Ups formula were fading. Fortunately We’re The Millers was able to take the place of both and became the surprise hit of the summer this year.

Actually from my own point of view, I found a lot of moment so We’re The Millers funny but also a lot of unfunny moments. Yes, there was the bag of dope disguised as a baby named Lebron. Yes, there was the stripper dance getaway. Yes, there was the idiot Gurdlinger. But all too often it seemed like they were resorting to sex humor or sexual languages for the sake of cheap laughs. It may be because I’ve aged but I’m okay with sex humor as long as it justifies itself in the movie or the script. All too often I can tell the sex humor or sex language is used for the sake of a shock effect or a cheap instant laugh. And that’s what it seemed to be doing all too often in Millers. I know I should be expecting this especially since the writers have The Wedding Crashers, She’s Out Of Your League and episodes of Married With Children to their writing credits. Even the director has Dodgeball to his directing credits. Nevertheless I felt it tried too hard to deliver shock-laughs at times. Hey, I know comedy is the hardest thing in the world to do but still…

We’re The Millers is a surprise hit of the summer and for a lot of good reasons. I often feel it’s National Lampoon’s Vacation meets The Hangover.  However it’s not to say that its over-the-top humor can come across as desperate for shock laughs at times. It’s all a matter for the audient to decide whether it’s funny or not.

2013 Box Office: Summer More Sizzle Than Slump

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The news involving the Hollywood box office for the most part has been pretty negative especially in terms of the annual total gross or all the action movie flops this summer. One thing that has been overlooked is the overall success of the summer. It actually did better than most people noticed. Or most journalists took note of.

Continuing from where I last kept track, July was actually a bigger month than most people noticed. Yes, the big news of the action flops of that month like The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, Red 2 and R.I.P.D. What shouldn’t be overlooked were the big successes of the month like the minion power of Despicable Me 2, the goofball comedy of Grown Ups 2, suspense of The Conjuring and even the successful action-packed delivery of The Wolverine. Overlooked by most, 2013 produced the highest-grossing July ever with $1.291 billion: $20 million more than the previous July record set in 2008 and almost $220 million more than July 2012. Funny how the flops made bigger news than the successes.

August also continued the run of success for the summer of 2013. It opened with the success of 2 Guns, continued with the temporary success of Elysium, received surprise successes from We’re The Millers and Lee Daniels’ The Butler and ended on a bright note with the opening of One Direction: This Is Us. At the buzzer, August 2013 grossed $755.4 million: $16.4 million more than August 2012. 2013 is not the highest-grossing August ever as it’s been outgrossed by the Augusts of 2001 and 2007.

So if you want to give a rough estimate of comparing summers, by simply adding up the grosses from May to August of both 2013 and 2012, the summer months of 2013 grossed slightly more than $425 million more than the summer months of 2012. This is a welcome relief after the slumping of the first four months of the year. It doesn’t completely make up the deficit it had over the monthly pace of 2012’s total gross but it does help gain a lot back and reassure us that people still like to go to the movies despite how many forms of entertainment people have.

One thing is the successes and failures of 2013 can teach Hollywood a lot about shelling out movies for the public. I will admit that the news about the constant flopping of the big budget action movies did deserve to be made note of. In fact it continued with Elysium despite how good quality it was. One thing that should have also been taken note of was the low-budget successes that happened. Some of which had quite minimal expectations put on them. First example is the horror drama The Conjuring which made $136 million total all on a budget of $20 million. In fact it debuted at #1 in its opening weekend with a gross more than double its budget. Another example is the oddball comedy We’re The Millers. It never was #1 at the box office but it opened with a healthy opening weekend of $26.4 million and went onto a gross that currently stands at $132 million. This movie had to be the movie that had legs this summer. The most current example is Lee Daniels’ The Butler. That’s not your typical summer fare but it held the #1 spot during the last three weekends of the summer and just hit $100 million this weekend. Hollywood, take note.

It’s not to say that action moves were a complete dud this summer. It actually opened strong with Iron Man 3 and continued with Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z. However the first sign that the crowd was about to tire of this genre was when Man Of Steel didn’t gross as much as hoped. Sure, $291 million is still impressive and has it as the 3rd-highest grossing movie of 2013, but more was expected. I believe that was the first sign that it would be all downhill from here for this summer’s action flicks.

What should be noted is that the biggest winners at the box office were not necessarily the action movies but the animated family movies. Iron Man 3 may have been the highest grossing movie of 2013 so far but Despicable Me 2 is the second-highest. Its Minion Power took it to a total gross of just over $359 million. Monsters University holds as the fourth-highest of 2013 with $265 million. A third animated movie, Epic, also received an impressive total gross of $107 million.

So that sums up the summer of 2013. Action-packed, animatedly-charming and surprises out of left field. For every box office dud, there were hits. The bad news of the summer action flick would lead to good news of this summer’s total gross. Hollywood should learn from this summer and prepare not simply for a better summer but a smarter-planned summer for 2014.