Mini-Reviews: Elysium, We’re The Millers
Neill Blomkamp sure does love blowing people up… and I sure do love him for it. Plenty of humans got blown up in his feature debut, District 9, and they’re at it again in Elysium: limbs, torsos, and faces are torn asunder before our eyes. Action aficionados should find plenty to be entertained by, although fans of hard science fiction are more likely to be disappointed. The plot follows a dying working stiff named Max (Matt Damon) in the near future who has to break into Elysium, an asylum for the rich located in space, to find the cure. Elysium is run with an iron fist by the Secretary of Defense (Jodie Foster), who keeps out all common folk with the help of a devilish rogue agent named Kruger (Sharlto Copley), so those on Earth suffer while those in space live the high society lifestyle. The internal logic of the film is admittedly slapdash– Jodie Foster’s evil plan involves reprogramming computers to give her the label of President, as if people won’t remember who the president currently is. Still, while simplistic, the execution is rather taut, and few play a slightly bland hero better than Matt Damon. Once the film hits the final third, the action and emotion kick into overdrive, compensating for any prior lags in interest. The real star of the show here is Copley, who gives the crazed Kruger hints of sadness behind his mania, perhaps the best villainous performance of the summer. He’s also the force propelling most of the humans toward their inevitable exploded end, which makes him a nifty Blomkamp stand-in. While it lacks District 9’s originality or fully-developed main character, Elysium further establishes Blomkamp as one of the few directors I’d trust with a hundred million dollar budget.
We’re The Millers:
Jennifer Aniston has struggled to find the proper comedy vehicle for her. She’s slogged through atrocious romcoms, even starring opposite Adam Sandler, in hopes of finding that one role that will give her the same comedic credibility in film that she carried in the sitcom world. Thankfully, We’re The Millers gives her Rose, the stripper/faux-housewife, and her terrific performance helps make this film one of the funniest of the year. David (Jason Sudeikis) needs to smuggle weed over the Mexican border for his boss (Ed Helms), and he realizes the best way to cross undetected is to pose as an obnoxiously happy suburban family in an RV. He brings Rose (Aniston) as the mom, local dweeb Kenny (Will Poulter) as his son, and gutterpunk runaway Casey (Emma Roberts) as his daughter. Hijinks predictably ensues, and the film takes a road trip format, stopping from setpiece to setpiece, some funnier than others. These films are only as funny as their actors, and thankfully We’re The Millers has an ensemble up for the task. Few play the role of the son of a bitch quite as effectively as Sudeikis, and Poulter’s Kenny is the most genuine and hilarious teenager in a comedy since McLovin graced Superbad with his presence. We’re The Millers also makes the smart choice to throw in Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn, two of the funniest people anywhere, as the parents of another RV-travelin’ family that takes a shining to the Millers. Offerman and Hahn could read the phone book and get laughs, so their frequent re-appearances are a welcome reprieve from a generally yawn-inducing subplot about an angry Mexican drug lord chasing David. It’s far from perfect or consistent, but I got more fits of laughter from We’re The Millers than most comedies in the past couple of years. Plus, it gives us the gift of Aniston, who gives a quick-witted and physical performance the likes of which we haven’t seen from her on the silver screen. Hopefully we get more Aniston comedies of this caliber in the years to come. Even if it’s We’re The Millers 2.