Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jason Sudeikis and We're the Millers

Part of the fun of watching SNL is seeing actors transform from nobodies into film stars before your very eyes. I remember when Jason Sudeikis was a highly inconspicuous featured player who had just a few lines in the entirety of the 2004-2005 season. He seemed to blend into the background so well, it was hard to imagine him being up to the task of leading the show when the  older cast members left. His early bit with Kristen Wiig "Two A-Holes..." was hillarious but it didn't make any arguments in favor of Sudeikis being a guy with great range when you saw him using the same persona for game show hosts and other straight men and it didn't help that he was being relegated to those roles.

Saturday Night Live lends credence to the thesis, however, that performers need time to grow with the
audience. Like 90% of performers on SNL, Sudeikis gradually surprised me with new sides of himself. When Anne Hathaway hosted, we discovered Jason Sudeikis could sing. When Obama ran for office, we discovered Sudeikis could make a great Biden and four years later, he was even more hillarious as Romney. He was even impressive in the Lord Wyndemere skits and he wasn't the star of it. In short, Sudeikis is still the quintessential straight man he was when he started but he's refined that persona to be able to play variations.

In his first post-SNL vehicle in which he's a leading man, Sudeikis plays a slightly darker shade of the same guy: A bit more self-centered, a bit meaner, and a bit more prone to wreckless behavior. As a drug dealer devoid of any personal attachments (all the better for his character to arc in the opposite direction), Sudeikis's slight adjustments fit the story well.

In this film, Sudeikis plays a drug dealer who recruits three neighbors--  Emma Roberts as a teenage runaway, Jennifer Aniston as a stripper (not particularly convincing. She comes off as an improbably white trash version of Rachel) and Will Poulter as a sheltered teenage kid with an absentee mom  -- to help him evade border police while carrying drugs back from Mexico. As you might expect, the film will aims for sappiness points as the group of misfits bonds and forms a makeshift family as they experience misadventures together. What one might not expect is that despite being rather dark and edgy, the film manages to find some room for those heartfelt moments and does indeed earn its ending.

Also worth noting that certain set pieces (like Jennifer Aniston stripping her way out of a sticky situation or Nick Offerman licking Jason's ear off) don't work as well as others, but the heart is there.

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