Jungle Cruise

Release: Friday, July 30, 2021

👀 Theater

Written by: Michael Green; Glenn Ficarra; John Requa

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Dwayne Johnson; Emily Blunt; Jesse Plemons; Jack Whitehall; Paul Giamatti; Édgar Ramírez

 

 

***/*****

The long, predictable meanders of the river are more enjoyable when you’ve got a good crew to float with. Such is the case with Jungle Cruise, a family-friendly adventure deeply indebted to the charms of Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, playing a mismatched pair on a dangerous mission deep into the heart of the Amazon circa the early 1900s.

Jungle Cruise remains rooted in classic adventure tropes even as the whole kit-and-caboodle swings wide of classic status and despite the expensive, flashy CGI ballast. There’s a map, a hidden treasure, cursed conquistadors (the film at its most unfortunate, casting a slew of Latinx actors, most notably Édgar Ramírez, and extras in thankless background roles smothered in digital Disneymagic), a bad guy after the same treasure, and even a wisp of romance, although this proves to be about the only thing Johnson and Blunt fail at as a team. Less trope-y is the characterization of the aforementioned competition, Jesse Plemons in fine bizarre form as a largely submarine-bound German memorably seen consulting a swarm of bees on navigational strategy.

On strategy, helming this old-school-feeling rig is director Jaume Collet-Serra, who sets aside his more violent filmmaking tendencies in favor of a breezy, good-natured bit of escapism where the exploration (and exploitation) of character foibles and differences outweigh more tangible narrative concerns. The plot finds Blunt’s danger-courting, pants-wearing Dr. Lily Houghton traveling to the Brazilian jungle in search of a riverboat captain willing to take her and her brother MacGregor (a third-wheeling but really fun Jack Whitehall) to the secret location of the Tears of the Moon, a mythical tree whose incandescent pink petals she believes could change the course of modern medicine and, thus, her status amongst her peers who all too happily laugh a lady out of any serious discussion. Meanwhile, Plemons’ Prince Joachim is hoping to get there first, thinking it could change Germany’s fortunes in the Great War.

Johnson’s Frank Wolff, a down-on-his-luck river guide with more puns in the bank than dollar bills, is motivated to journey down the Mighty Amazon due to his increasing debt to port manager Nilo (a haggard-looking Paul Giamatti). Naturally, personalities and philosophies clash immediately and about as comically as MacGregor’s wardrobe choices do with the climate. Along the way a mutual respect for one another is eventually gained. However, trust turns out to be more of an uphill battle for the Houghtons, who understandably tire of Frank’s penchant for pranking. As it turns out, there is more to Frank than deception and a pet jaguar.

Jungle Cruise is the latest in a line of movies “inspired by” real theme park rides. Like the actual Disney World attraction itself, for maximum enjoyment it helps to not get too curious about how the machinations work. Once you look over the sides and see the rails guiding the thing along a lot of the fun tends to get lost. Jungle Cruise is a cash grab but there are certainly more cynical ones out there.

So quiet you can’t even hear the critics chirping

Moral of the Story: I’m not sure I should be admitting this, but I actually got to experience this movie in an empty theater. Much to my surprise, it didn’t make much of a difference. Jungle Cruise, like many a Marvel movie, just seems like it would play better to a packed house. And it probably still does. Yet it speaks to the charisma of the two leads that I had a good time anyway. Plus the beer probably didn’t hurt (Señor Krunkles IPA — pretty sweet, hoppy and fruity. Made for a great pairing.)  

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 127 mins.

Quoted: “I had a girlfriend once, she was cross-eyed. Didn’t work out. We could never see eye to eye!”

Check out the creepy-crawly jungle-brawly trailer here!

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.actionra.com 

TBT: Toy Story (1995)

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Given that today is a holiday I don’t really celebrate being British and all, I figured now would be as good a time as any to go back and visit an absolute classic from the mid-90s. Upon reading up on the film I realized it is also the 20th anniversary of the release, which by all accounts made feel quite old. It’s also surprising to me that it has taken me until now to feature 

Today’s food for thought: Toy Story.

Buzz Lightyear

Toying with our emotions since: November 22, 1995

[VHS]

One of the great tragedies of life is that it always changes. Nothing stays the same. The notion of a child’s toy collection having lives of their own, getting into trouble and having adventures in clandestinity (i.e. when no human is around or paying much attention) is the epitome of creative filmmaking, but it wouldn’t be nearly as memorable without its poignant commentary on the nature of change and how people — in this case, toys — adapt to and more often than not benefit from it.

Tom Hanks’ Woody finds his little cowboy boots turned inside out when a new toy arrives in Andy’s room in the form of Tim Allen’s sophisticated, tech-savvy, Star Command-loyalist Buzz Lightyear. Worried that Andy’s attention is, at the very least, going to be henceforth split between his old buddy and a new shiny ‘play thing,’ Woody goes on the defense, making sure Andy’s room and all that it contains doesn’t make him very welcome. It’s a fruitless effort, because in a matter of minutes Buzz manages to win everyone over with his flying abilities and his voice-activated thing-a-ma-jigs.

This film, the simplest of the three, rarely leaves the confines of Andy’s room, much less the house, and when it does, the world feels massive: massively unexplored and massively intimidating. When Woody accidentally knocks Buzz out of the window and inadvertently turns the rest of the toys against him, he is chosen reluctantly by Andy as the single toy he gets to take to a family outing at Pizza Planet. Buzz soon confronts Woody about the situation, and just when their future looks as uncertain as it could possibly become, they fall into the clutches of the evil Sid when Buzz mistakes a rocket-shaped arcade game for the genuine article. Potentially damned to a life of destruction, the odd couple must resolve their differences and find a way back into the loving arms of Andy.

Yet there are issues further complicating the end game. Buzz still thinks he’s a legitimate space ranger and Woody is still hated by the rest of the toys, who believe he intentionally eliminated Buzz out of jealousy. The pair may be imprisoned, but ultimately they’re within reach of all that was once familiar — they can even communicate with the other toys through open windows — but at this point in the story the two groups may as well be on opposite sides of the planet. And not even Slinky believes Woody is a good guy anymore.

Changed environments and slowly changing perspectives force a contrived, but nonetheless effective, reconciliation between a psychologically weakened Buzz who, after a bit of plastic brainwashing, is convinced he is now Mrs. Nesbitt, and a cowboy who recognizes phrases like “Somebody’s poisoned the water hole!” indeed have a shelf life. (Of course, Woody is more concerned with the literal sense of that term, not wanting to end up on a dusty shelf for the rest of his life.)

Toy Story, the first in a long line of incredibly successful Pixar campaigns, became so influential it spawned a trilogy of adventures featuring the jealous pull-string cowboy and his former intergalactic rival. And for once, the universe within which these adventures were first created seemed spacious enough to warrant further exploration. Toy Story is one of few sagas that actually builds naturally upon what came before, satiating audiences who fell in love with the original with grander aspirations and more complex schemes that would take the toys right out of the toy chest and confront them with the harsh realities of “real world” environments. In some senses, these movies are almost too good for children. It’s like handing them a piece of German chocolate and expecting them to know the difference between that and a Hershey bar.

As a child I don’t think I ever ‘got’ what was going on in the lives of these once-fictitious toys in a larger sense; it certainly never occurred to me that there would come a day when Bo Peep, Slinky, Rex, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, the Etch-a-Sketch, the barrel of monkeys, Mr. Spell and an infantry of green plastic soldiers would be faced with an existential crisis: the proposition of being sold off to someone not named Andy. Similarly, as a child, I didn’t quite understand that life would perpetually get more difficult with each passing year and eventual decade. I always thought the bubble would never pop. In fact I couldn’t even tell I was floating in a bubble.

This animated classic set the bar for a studio that would go on to create an unprecedented run of high-quality cinematic releases but for some reason I care much less about what came after as I do about this mid-90s release. Make no mistake, though: I loved Inside Out and in all likelihood I’m going to greatly enjoy The Good Dinosaur. I skipped out on Cars, Planes, Monsters Inc., Up and Brave. In essence, Toy Story is virtually all I know about the world’s most successful animation studio. I’m scared of and don’t welcome all that easily the concept of things changing. But maybe it’s time to start embracing it.

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Recommendation: One of this blogger’s very favorite movies, Toy Story just gets things right on every level: characters, visual presentation, story, music, the comedy, and profound themes like accepting and embracing change and making new friends. As one of the very first movies I saw in theaters, I have to say I had no idea then how good this movie really was and still is. This is such a memorable experience that I love revisiting time and again.

Rated: G

Running Time: 81 mins.

TBTrivia: Jeffrey Katzenberg often gave notes that he wanted more edge. Pixar presented an early draft of the film to Disney on November 19, 1993. The result was disastrous. The film was deemed unwatchable and John Lasseter recalls simply hanging his head in shame. It presented Woody as a “sarcastic jerk” who was constantly insulting the other toys. Katzenberg took Walt Disney Feature Animation president Peter Schneider in[to] the hall after the screening and asked him why it was bad; Schneider responded that it “wasn’t theirs anymore.” Disney immediately shut down production pending a new script. The story team spent a week on a new script to make Woody a more likable character, instead of the “sarcastic jerk” he had been.

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Photo credits: http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.blogs.disney.com 

The Peanuts Movie

'The Peanuts Movie' movie poster

Release: Friday, November 6, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Bryan Shulz; Craig Shulz; Cornelius Uliano

Directed by: Steve Martino

In The Peanuts Movie, Charlie Brown is still (mostly) the center of attention and adults remain out of sight, except for the few who lend their voices to the tune of a muffled, and possibly mangled, kazoo.

Here is a movie of extraordinarily simple pleasures, about a boy who crushes hard on the new redheaded girl at school and whose dog writes a compelling bit of fiction that details his most recent clash with the Red Barron. There is absolutely nothing here that you haven’t seen before, be it in previous incarnations of ‘Peanuts’ in celluloid form, in the comic strip or in any middling bit of entertainment aimed towards children 6-12. Surprisingly, in the comfortable and safe confines of unremarkable direction familiarity does not breed contempt. It breeds deep pangs of nostalgia.

I can’t even remember the last time I watched or so much as looked at anything ‘Peanuts’-related. It has to be at least a decade since, not counting, of course, the teaser posters that were unveiled last year for this film. Three years ago this project was announced, but I don’t know where I was. Sleeping on top of a doghouse, perhaps? (I have always considered myself more of a Snoopy than a Charlie Brown.) This November marks the 65th anniversary of the comic strip’s debut, and the 50th anniversary since the first TV movie, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The strip itself ran for half a century, debuting in 1950 and ending in 2000. Of course, its beloved creator, Charles M. Shulz, passed away the day before his final Sunday strip ran in the papers.

As any ‘Peanuts’ fan knows the strip wasn’t destined for continuation as the Shulz family felt strongly about Charles remaining its first and only drawer. That might partially explain why we don’t get anything even close to original in The Peanuts Movie, a product now 15 years removed from the end of a significant era. Shulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan drafted a production that honors the legacy without stepping on any hand-drawn toes.

The formula requires introducing Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) to a “new” obstacle. Yes, he’s still having major issues with getting his kite to fly but when a new girl moves in next door, he finds himself with bigger fish to fry. Smitten by The Redheaded Girl, he remains paralyzed with fear when it comes to walking up to her and introducing himself. The conflict manifests as an amalgam of many smaller social anxieties good old Chuck has had in the past, be it overcoming Lucy’s bullying or avoiding Peppermint Patty’s advances: “You kind of like me, don’t you Chuck?” Charlie’s often been involved in love drama and that’s not the only thing that hasn’t changed here.

In the movie he must overcome his pessimism, and prove himself worthy of The Redheaded Girl’s affections.

In the movie he struggles, as he always has, to understand his place in the bigger picture when he aces a test and suddenly becomes popular.

In the movie he muffs the punt on the football, because Lucy is still a jerk.

The movie isn’t all about Charlie Brown, though. You guessed correctly. Snoopy, along with his trusted ally Woodstock (both of whom are given life thanks to archived recordings of Bill Melendez), dreams — writes, even — of the moment he rescues his own damsel in distress in the form of an exciting aerial adventure. The Red Barron, curse him, will stop at nothing to ensure Snoopy doesn’t succeed. A subplot as whimsical as it is perfunctory.

Here’s a production that manages to extend the legacy without expanding much of its horizon. It’s a win-win: we reap the benefits of being reunited with some of our favorite comic strip characters; the Shulz family will undoubtedly reap the financial benefits of the big screen treatment.

Charlie, Snoopy and Woodstock Got Talent

Recommendation: Good grief this is a nostalgic movie. Fans of ‘Peanuts’ should and probably will see this regardless of anything I write. I think it’s kind of telling that this is the first G-rated film I have reviewed on the blog. I just couldn’t resist diving back into this world, even if it is exactly the same as when I last left it.

Rated: G

Running Time: 88 mins.

Quoted: “You say you’ll hold it, but what you really mean is you’ll pull it away and I’ll land flat on my back and I’ll kill myself.” 

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Goosebumps

Release: Friday, October 16, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Darren Lemke; Scott Alexander; Larry Karaszewski

Directed by: Rob Letterman

If anyone asked me what got me into writing, I would tell them it was R.L. Stine. I wanted to be like him so much I came up with my own ghost stories as a kid; I even started mimicking the artwork that made his books unique . . .

.  . . and so, in 2015, they decided to make a Goosebumps movie. Not that I asked for it, or expected it to come now, some 20 years removed from the peak of Stine’s popularity (to give that time frame some context, this was the era of the flat-top haircut, Walkmans and quality children’s programming on Nickelodeon).

But of course it would happen — how could a book series that became so endeared to millions of impressionable pre-pubescent minds not get picked up by a studio and be given a new lease on life? How is Goosebumps anything other than an inevitability? The good news is that the film is actually worth seeing; this is as good as inevitable gets. Forget the fact you and Jack Black may not get along; forget your inner child wanting to rebel against the cinematic treatment, for you’d be lying to yourself that the only place Stine’s monstrous creations should live are in the pages of the books or in your memory. Getting to see the Abominable Snowman on screen is a kind of privilege. Better yet, seeing (and hearing) Slappy the dummy physically make threats is believing.

Everyone knows the series wasn’t exactly substantive nor inventive. Categorically predictable and breezy reads, they were defined more by the creatures that inhabited the pages, many a variation on ghostlike presences but sometimes branching out to include more obscure objects — who remembers ‘Why I’m Afraid of Bees’ or ‘The Cuckoo Clock of Doom?’ That their intellectual value was the equivalent of nutrient-deprived cereals like Captain Crunch’s Oops All Berries didn’t mean they were devoid of value completely, and on the basis of sheer volume — the original series which lasted from ’92 to ’97 included 62 titles — you couldn’t find many more book series geared towards children that were quite so exhaustive. Their longevity is owed to the fact Stine never tried to do anything fancy with them. The set-up was simple: stage a beginning, establish a middle section and cap it off with a twist ending.

Naturally, a film dealing with these very creatures and the author who dreamed them up, if it had any interest in reconnecting with a by-now fully-grown and steadily more jaded audience, would find formulaic storytelling appealing. What Rob Letterman has come up with is safe, harmless, occasionally eye-roll-worthy. What it’s not is scary. More importantly, it’s not a disaster.

Zach (Dylan Minnette) and his mom (the increasingly busy Amy Ryan) have just moved to Nowheresville, Delaware (the town is actually called Madison, but it’s the same thing) after the passing of Zach’s father. Zach makes a friend almost immediately in his next door neighbor, Hannah (Odeya Rush), but is just as quickly intimidated by her creepy father, who introduces himself as Mr. Shivers (Jack Black) — but we all know that’s a front. Even the 11-year-olds in attendance can see through that, what with his exceedingly thick wire-framed glasses and generally strange demeanor. The new-kid-in-town premise is, yes, exceedingly dull, particularly when it feels obliged to deal in a few fairly annoying characters who help expand the environment beyond Zach’s new home.

So far, so ‘Goosebumps.’ The stories never compelled on the virtues of their human characters. It’s not until Zach invades Hannah’s home (the fine for breaking and entering doesn’t faze this kid) upon hearing screams coming from her room that he discovers a small library filled with old ‘Goosebumps’ manuscripts. When he opens up a book, the fun begins. A monster is unleashed upon them and it’s up to Hannah to try and contain the chaos before her possibly psycho-father finds out. Unfortunately it’s not just the one creature they have to worry about. Soon every book starts unleashing their contents upon the small community and wreaking all kinds of PG-rated havoc, a development that’s better left unspoiled.

It’s up to Zach, his newfound friend Champ (Ryan Lee, who falls decidedly into the ‘fairly annoying’ category), Hannah and the loner author himself to save Madison from being overrun by a combination of lawn gnomes, giant mutant praying mantises and monster blood. It helps to think of Goosebumps as a ‘Best of’ Stine’s monstrous creations; few creatures truly stand out (save for everyone’s favorite talking dummy, voiced by Black) but what it lacks in quality it compensates in quantity. Once again mirroring its source material, the film benefits from sheer volume of creative CGI and lavish costume design rather than going into detail on any one thing.

It should go without saying such genericness will hardly compel viewers to champion its award potential. In fact, if you’re expecting quality of any kind outside of how strongly the film tugs on the strings of nostalgia, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Don’t expect any goosebumps to form on your skin come the frantic, rushed conclusion.

Recommendation: Very much a pleasant surprise in terms of the memories it brings back and the entertainment value provided by a game cast, Goosebumps‘ cinematic presentation won’t linger very long in the mind, but luckily enough it won’t have to as a sequel is all but a sure thing. With any luck that will also become a fun trip down memory lane. Anyone who read at least a few of these books should find this a perfectly acceptable rental night at home with the kids. 

Rated: PG

Running Time: 103 mins

Quoted: “All the monsters I’ve ever created are locked inside these books. But when they open . . . “

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Decades Blogathon – Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

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Decades Blogathon Banner

1985

It’s day six of the Decades Blogathon, hosted by myself and the inimitable Tom from Digital Shortbread! The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the fifth year of the decade. Tom and are running different entries each day; and this one comes from Louis at The Cinematic Frontier. Louis’ thoughts and musings on the world of film make for fun and informative reading so why not do yourself a favour and head over there after checking out his review!

Thirty years ago, a film was released by Warner Bros. that would become an important milestone in the careers of three individuals.

For Paul Reubens, it would mark the big screen debut of his character Pee-Wee Herman; for Tim Burton, it would mark his feature film directing debut; while for Danny Elfman, it would mark the creation of his first Hollywood film score.

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure Poster

To say that Pee-Wee’s Big…

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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Release: Friday, October 10, 2014

[Theater]

Written by: Rob Lieber

Directed by: Miguel Arteta

As the ruthless Carmine Falcone once told Cillian Murphy’s Dr. Crane in a particularly insightful moment during Batman Begins, “some days, some days just go bad.”

Indeed it does for one Alexander Cooper and his extraordinarily ordinary family. The day before his twelfth birthday, he experiences a series of misfortunes that make for a very bad day. He starts off the day with gum in his hair, which he cuts out himself, then heads to school where more disaster awaits. Alexander finds a way to embarrass himself in front of the girl that he likes (as well as his entire science class) when he accidentally lights her notebook and half the classroom on fire. But the day’s not over yet. When he gets home he mishandles his baby brother’s pacifier and drops it down the garbage disposal, mangling it.

That night, as he blows out candles on the birthday treat he has made for himself, he wishes that the rest of his family — who were largely indifferent to his complaints at the dinner table earlier — would experience what it’s like to be him for just one day. He blows out the candles and the moon rises to take the sky, all cliché-like and shit.

Alexander and the . . . my goodness that’s an exhausting title . . . isn’t the kind of comedy most people flock to for the star talent, though the cast is no slouch. The Coopers are headed by hard-working mom Kelly (Jennifer Garner) who’s eying a promotion at the publishing company she’s been working with for some time; and recently laid-off dad, Ben (Steve Carell), who’s just landed an interview with a gaming company.

Beyond Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) there’s big brother Anthony (Logan Lerman. . . er, rather, Dylan Minnette) and Emily is the in-betweener sister (Kerris Dorsey). The aforementioned are amusing in equal measure, yet the real highlight of the show should be baby Trevor (there’s those adorable Vargas twins again, Elise and Zoey) who has a green mouth for most of the episode. That these people are naturally funny and these characters come across as good, decent people gives weight to the low-brow ambition of this adaptation of Judith Viorst’s 1972 novel of the same long-winded name.

Modern script aims at recapturing the essence of the short children’s book, and at only 81 minutes in length, one’s led to believe there isn’t a great deal of deviation in the narrative. Director Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids; Youth in Revolt) maximizes old-school slapstick appeal and takes a keen interest in the concept of Murphy’s Law. What can go wrong, will go wrong and for these poor people, quite literally everything does. The parents wake up past their alarms on the morning of Kelly’s promotion and Ben’s job interview; Emily wakes up with a fever and Anthony goes on to fail his driver’s test which he had hoped to pass so he could drive his date to the prom that night.

When the wheels really fall off the wagon is when the diminutive little audience is likely to find this film at its most fun and for the adult portion, at its most ridiculous. Clearly the screenwriters cherish the anarchistic set-up. It’s evident in the giddy energy the entire cast summons as they wake up the next day, direct recipients of Alexander and his wishes for them to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But does it really work out that way for the lot of them? That’s why you should watch and find out for yourself.

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3-0Recommendation: If you’ve had a terrible day, here’s something you should see to get your perspective on. The movie is predictable, dumb fun. Of course there’ll be massive compromises made on the part of any parent willing to take their kids to see this as there isn’t much for more matured minds to latch onto here. That said, this is, simply put, good old-fashioned harmless fun. It features solid PG-rated performances from its A-list leads and even some decent ones from the young folk. I actually really enjoyed this silly farce, probably more than I should have as a late twenty-something.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 81 mins.

Quoted: “His face is . . . all green.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

We’re the Millers

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Release: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

[Theater]

And Clark Griswold thought the time he had spent with his family on vacation was difficult. Jason Sudeikis stars alongside Jennifer Aniston in a film that thinks its a family comedy but what it’s more like is a raunchy, ill-parented spoiled brat of a comedy. It may otherwise be viewed as an hour-and-forty-minute-long reason to see Jennifer Aniston strip down and do a dance to convince everyone that she’s a stripper. To each audience persuasion their own.

While that’s a true highlight, We’re the Millers makes leading the domestic life look about as difficult and stressful as performing last-minute neurosurgery during a power outage. That may sound funny, but that’s not what the film is unfortunately. In fact, it’s insanely weird and uncomfortable. Rawson Marshall Thurber, responsible for Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, was tasked to direct this film and also unfortunately this feels nothing like the spirited, “we’re screwed but we’re going to still enjoy the moment anyway” brand of humor that washed over Dodgeball‘s cliched storyline; the direction here feels hesitant, unsure and quite frankly amateurish. There is hardly any excitement going on at all and while there are funny parts, the vast majority of this film is almost painful to watch.

Regard the somewhat interesting premise: David Clark (Sudeikis) gets his pot stolen from him one day and realizes he now owes his guy (Ed Helms) — a wealthy drug dealer who’s quite the prick — a good amount of money that he currently can’t get back to him. Helms’ Brad Gurdlinger offers David an alternative: ‘If you go across the border and tell the guys there’s a pick-up for Pablo Chacon, you and I are all good. It’s just a smidge of weed. Okay, a smidge-and-a-half.’ Naturally, David knows he himself is too sketchy to cross international borders to retrieve “a smidge of any drugs,” so he quickly comes up with a plan to falsify a family and act as if they are on a vacation to Mexico. He recruits a couple residents of his apartment building, including Rose (Aniston) who is a stripper and will be his wife; and a really dorky, awkward kid named Kenny (Will Poulter) as the son. Kenny turns out to be quite hilarious, as a matter of fact.

He also recruits a young girl who seems to be living on the streets at the current moment — a girl named Casey (Emma Roberts), who also thinks Kenny is like, so major dorky. Perfect for a sister. They all fake their way across borders to “smuggle” (not deal) drugs — there’s a difference — and they become mostly successful. The whole thing really is quite a fun gimmick, but the script simply lacks weight and the story comes across as flat as any rodent David could have potentially converted into roadkill along his highly illegal journey.

Still, can’t go on throughout this family affair without mentioning performances. In spite of the weak script, Aniston is pretty damn good here, and is a funny, strong character who is a good match with Sudeikis, surprisingly. Even though the script most of the time didn’t allow any real romance develop between them (even though it tried), you could see it being a decent re-edit of the film that is currently released. If this movie had received some touch-ups, this might have been a very decent movie.

I really just can’t move on beyond how suffocatingly bad the script was. I’m like, so totally over, like, not good writing, gosh. . . .

Sudeikis as David has moments of being funny, but mostly he’s just a jerk and unlikable. The real winner, and a big source of the guffaws in We’re the Millers, is within Kenny’s dorky teenager trying to break out of his shell. I enjoyed him quite a bit, and far more than Sudeikis. Helms is more or less a nonsensical jackass (which I suppose we have gathered from his Office repertoire) that is not likable at all, either. The movie’s sophomoric writing and plot development basically makes all of these would-be-funny characters wooden puppets, slaves to the strings of bad writing that limits the funny moments to a few every half hour — even that might be generous.

There is some underlying merit to the film, despite how impish the script was in trying to spin the thread of morality that was obviously there from square one; how so many jokes failed in adding to the story much beyond raunchiness. At the heart of the story is something heartwarming, a weird attraction that ends up pulling all these formerly random individuals closer together to the point of actually desiring a family life together. The experiences they go through — as contrived, artificial and damn tedious as they are presented — establish legitimate relationships between the characters, and that was also rewarding.

We’re the Millers satisfies on some kind of mindless entertainment level, but if that’s a compliment, I don’t mean for it to be.

Were-the-Millers-Red-Band-Trailer

Shameless. So I have to share.

2-0Recommendation: Though the film really means well, I feel there is far too much potential wasted in this movie for me to recommend it fully. Dollar-theater material, people?

Rated: R

Running Time: 110 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com