Sometimes nagging questions pop into my head at night just as I am on the verge of falling asleep. Did I lock the door? Did I put the leftovers in the fridge? Why doesn't Jennifer Aniston have a better movie career?
I can easily answer the first two just by getting out of bed and checking. Or, preferably, asking my husband to get out of bed and check. But that last query—which again consumes me, now that Aniston's latest effort, "We're the Millers," has arrived in theaters—is a doozy. I mean, Meryl Streep might have three shiny doorstoppers all named Oscar, but did she inspire a hairdo? Or single-handedly keep the gossip-rag industry in business with the ongoing soap opera that is her love life? Or so memorably take up the cause against oppressive workplace flair in the underappreciated classic known as "Office Space"?
After much tossing and turning on her behalf, I have concluded Aniston's problem boils down to this: Despite being girl-next-door gorgeous, appealing to both males and females alike and just plain funny, she is her own worst enemy when it comes to choosing projects. The path to big-screen glory is rarely paved with mediocre romantic comedies and the sorts of girlfriend roles that have become her specialty. (At least Aniston tried to mix it up by going all Sundance dowdy and serious—otherwise known as Cher-ing it—as an unhappy Texas store clerk in 2002's "The Good Girl," but her "Friends" fans didn't buy it.) Even when the actress formerly known as Rachel Green has a hit like "Bruce Almighty" or "Horrible Bosses," she is rarely the primary focus. In other words, don't do "Marley & Me" if you don't play either Marley or me.
So when something as chuckle-worthy, mildly clever and surprisingly borderline genius at times as "We're the Millers" comes along, even those who are Aniston averse will heave a sigh of relief. For one, it is not a romantic comedy but something more ambitiously high concept—emphasis on high. Now that the legal demonization of marijuana use is slowly eroding, why not a middle-class answer to a stoner comedy that pays homage to "National Lampoon's Vacation" and extolls the virtues of family life?