People often spend July 4th seeking local fireworks displays. Maybe they barbecue or spend time with family. The Millers? They set off to Mexico. For pot. About a ton of it.
Kicker is the Millers are not a family. Not a one carries the surname. Their family story reads like a battered bar joke: A pot dealer, stripper, runaway, and naïve teen meet to form a fake family. The punchline is this actually works.
David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) needs a family. Robbed of his marijuana take, he can’t pay up an orca-owning kingpin and accepts a cross-border smuggling job. But, David has the look, a grubby hoodie wearing type who could never pass as someone going straight.
Enter the pieced together family in an effort to blend in as they skip across international borders. No one in this group wants this scenario, and steps in only under the promise of a hard cash payout. Everyone splits acting duties, blending two roles in one between street smart and church smart with the hopes of avoiding Mexico’s prison system.
Credit the screenplay to four modern comedy writers who wrap this package up in a trite, routine framework. Millers, despite an edge of dark and sexualized comedy, crushes itself under the weight of its familiarity. Character paths are pre-determined from the outset with story arcs giving these people limited choice as to their future.
Millers is a set-up, a reason to put four incompatible people on the road and implore them to succeed. What occurs after happens directly in the lap of its actors. It becomes a menagerie of improvisation which begs for Sudeikis, Aniston, and Nick Offerman to splice together something workable, and they do. Beautifully.
With an understanding of Millers content, which is an overdose of carefully plotted penile and vaginal references, the film becomes a capsule of modern comedic routines. Often, current status quo is to splash screens with raunchy content under the assumption it will stick. Realization sets in there is a balance, a mix of required down time to settle between an avalanche of activity. Millers finds said balance.
Yes, the “balance” here is gratingly flat as it plunges down a guided runway into cliché. But, its clumsiness doubles as a reprieve from splashes of sharply written one-liners, carefully framed looks of total disgust, or an unfortunate spider bite. Millers could use – nay, needs – a certain structure to suit its darker tonality which it will not be granted. The piece is instead lifted on the talents of its cast and they land it with perfect 10s.
Instead of wasting miles of film on discarded takes, Millers is roped in digitally. Warner trots the theatrical success to Blu-ray with an invisible AVC encode, replicating pristine imagery without noise or grit. Clarity is perfection without impediment.
Much of Millers is tremendously bright with pure exteriors bathing in sunlight. Colors punch themselves up without any discoloration to flesh tones but providing oomph to primaries. Displays of fireworks and neon at a carnival come the third act are superb.
Millers has visual weapons for a comedy. Past some rapid fire character development, seedy alleyways are determined to show off a rush of black levels. Depth is tremendous with caution employed as to not bug shadow details.
Fidelity marks the final element, and while not entering into supreme sharpness, facial definition and environments are generously rendered. Until some final act filtering kicks into overdrive, Millers establishes ground rules for consistency, matching itself shot to shot. Images are natural, with a purity typically reserved for film. Digital cinematography is fitting into its niche and (finally) filling those spaces left behind by film stock.
Much of the DTS-HD mix will find itself processing music, with little stubbornness shown in moving to the low-end. LFE accentuation thrives under these conditions to bring the disc some life and not sour it by drowning in center channel dialog.
Millers will be punctuated by an action scene partway through, a chase which involves some gunfire scattered into the rears and a car which is turned into little more than a stub. That sequence proves aggressive in the rears and flushing the subwoofer with something to do. During closing moments, carnival elements will sprout lively ambiance to add some final pieces of air.
Substantial amounts of the bonus features are recycled between these featurettes and closing credit outtakes. The same clip may repeat three times between everything creating some repetitiveness. Note the extended cut – still R-rated – is roughly 10-minutes longer than the included theatrical cut.
Millers Unleashed is eight minutes of improvisation with cast and crew discussing the art. Stories from the Road are seven brief (a few minutes on the high end) piecing together certain scenes with behind-the-scenes footage. Livin’ it Up With Brad focuses on Ed Helms character for four minutes.
When Paranoia Sets In is a dull faux documentary determining what, exactly, was in the RV as they shot the film. Deleted scenes are followed by a slew of additional outtakes.
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