We’re the Millers: Won’t Somebody Please Help Poor, Lost Jennifer Aniston?

We’re the Millers

Opens Wed., Aug 7 at Sundance and other theaters. Rated R. 109 minutes.

Jennifer Aniston gives every indication, onscreen and off, of being a hardworking and good-natured person; alas, her utter niceness has led to a dire series of post-Friends vehicles, films in which her capricious comic timing is squandered on very watered-down material.

Every now and then one of these movies tries to add some “edge,” which must be welcome to an actress stuck in the America’s Sweetheart loop. With the notable exception of The Good Girl, these attempts only remind us how nice Aniston is and how far short she falls of such knotted-up characters. Case in point: We’re the Millers, a predictably raunchy comedy with a farfetched but not impossible premise: Drug dealer David (Saturday Night Live veteran Jason Sudeikis) must make good a debt to his slick supplier (Ed Helms) by bringing a huge load of marijuana across the border from Mexico. David’s idea: Hire three strangers to pretend to be his nauseatingly clean-cut family, the better to escape detection while driving through customs in a motor home.

Aniston plays a stripper. So this is one of those “edge” parts, I guess. Her character, Rose, is strapped for cash and agrees to play David’s wife during the drug run—so not only is Aniston playing a cynical, wised-up stripper, she’s also playing the goody-two-shoes masquerade on top of that, which is supposed to be funny because we see the cynical stripper beneath the chirpy surface. Except we don’t, because what we see is Jennifer Aniston.

I was rooting for Aniston during the film, just as you hope that anybody caught in a trap will find the key. Game as she is, the worst moments are the strip scenes, when Rose goes down to her undies (there’s no nudity from Jennifer Aniston, unlike certain other actresses we could mention whose names rhyme with Angelina Jolie). The performance is awkward and unconvincing, as though Aniston knows she’s not getting away with it. She has top billing, but the story is told from David’s perspective (it might have been a crazier movie from Rose’s point of view). The faux-marrieds take in two teenage kids to play their children; they’re played by Emma Roberts and Will Poulter, the latter a red-headed English lad who stood out in the last Chronicles of Narnia movie and will undoubtedly get a lot of work from his funny turn here.

For all the shock jokes and shady subject matter, We’re the Millers is just another soft-centered comedy, relying on improvised doodads for its biggest yuks. Nothing kills a laugh like feeling bad for a performer—and you will feel bad for Jennifer Aniston here.

film@seattleweekly.com

 
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