by Bob Garver
Aug. 13, 2013. It happened again this weekend. I couldn’t decide which new release was more popular. “We’re the Millers” opened on Wednesday and had more money at the end of the weekend. “Elysium” opened on Friday and clearly made more money over the weekend, but fell short in the cumulative numbers. There’s a case to be made for either film given the two-day handicap, so I’ve decided to review both.
“We’re the Millers”
I think the makers of “We’re the Millers” came up with the movie’s gags first and then wrote the story around them. They knew they wanted (1) Strangers having to act like a family, (2) a road trip gone bad, (3) a comedic stripper scene, (4) a dirty game of Pictionary, (5) a humorously swollen appendage, (6) a villain with decadent interests and (7) a kissing scene that could be sickening when taken out of context. Maybe there was a contest among the writers to see who could combine these elements the hastiest.
The plot finds mild-mannered pot dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) in debt to his boss (Ed Helms) who has decadent interests(6). The boss sends him on an errand to Mexico after which the debt will be forgiven. David decides to get people from his neighborhood to pose as his family since allegedly Border Patrol never suspects families. It’s a stretch, but it’s the movie’s excuse to get strangers having to act like a family (1) and a road trip gone bad (2). David’s “wife” (Jennifer Aniston) is a stripper responsible for (3), his “son” (Will Poulter) is a dork responsible for (5), and his “daughter” (Emma Roberts) is a gutter punk who initiates (7). (4) is most contrived of all. Who brings a giant Pictionary pad on a camping trip?
The built-up gags aren’t very funny, the exception being (7) only because the movie spends so much time building it up that we feel like we’ve earned it. There are surprising laughs to be had from throwaway lines, the supposedly minor jokes that earn themselves a promotion with everything else falling apart around them. I’m fine with these jokes looking effortless, but does the whole movie have to look like it isn’t trying?
One and a half stars out of five.
“We’re the Millers” is rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity. Its funning time is 110 minutes.
Let it not be said that “Elysium” is not a great-looking movie. Director Neil Blomkamp (“District 9”) has once again created stirring slums and spectacular spaceships. Unfortunately, the movie is yet another bleak look at the future with an annoying “if these shadows remain unchanged…” call for change.
The movie takes place in the 22nd Century where the richest humans live on the space station paradise Elysium. The rest of humanity lives on earth, which of course we’ve gradually turned to ruin. Max (Matt Damon) has always hated living on earth, but he suddenly gets very sick and absolutely must get to Elysium if he hopes to live another week. Elysium has these magical healing pods that can cure any sickness or injury including loss of organs, apparently.
Max and some criminal buddies try to steal a code that will sneak them into Elysium. What they steal instead is a code to overthrow Elysium’s president. Whoever has the code essentially controls both worlds. Everybody wants this code including Max, his buddies, the current president, the power-hungry Secretary of Defense (Jodie Foster) and a violent goon in her employ (Sharlto Copely). Not surprisingly, a lot of chasing and bloodshed ensues.
The message is that we should all share our resources, especially healthcare.This argument would be a lot more convincing if 99 percent of the people on Earth weren’t depicted as lazy criminals. At least the film’s special effects are so good that you’ll think you’re watching a better movie.
Two stars out of five.
“Elysium” is rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout. Its running time is 109 minutes.