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Movie Review: We're the Millers
  • August 05, 2013 : 16:08
  • comments

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Rating: R
Studio: BenderSpink
Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts

Dumb, crass and rarely funny, We’re the Millers plays like one of those old family vacation movies—only with stoner humor, a little playful girl-on-girl action, a randy Mexican cop, lots of gay panic jokes, a grotesquely swollen testicle and various other assertively R-rated raunch. Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) directed and four credited screenwriters gave it a shot, but the best they’ve concocted has Jason Sudeikis playing a low-level, self-centered pot dealer who, in scary debt to his slimy, filthy rich supplier (Ed Helms, way off his form), gets forced to smuggle several tons of grass across the U.S.-Mexico border during July 4th weekend.

Figuring it could help his chances of getting an RV through customs without arousing suspicion, Sudeikis hires some down-on-their-luck types to pose as his suburban family, including a struggling stripper who lives down the hall and loathes him (Jennifer Aniston), a foul-mouthed teenage runaway street kid (Emma Roberts) and, best of the bunch, an awkward, virginal latchkey teen (Will Poulter).

The bar for movie comedy has been lower than low for at least the past decade, but We’re the Millers is particularly infuriating because it actually has such a good cast and such promise. It starts off with its characters snapping at and gibing each other, then getting squishy and family-friendly. Couldn't we please have a movie that comes on edgy and nasty without going all soft and cozy before the final fadeout? These characters aren’t really nasty, venal and grabby, you see; all they really want to do is settle down and be like modern-day versions of TV fantasy families like those in Father Knows Best or Leave It to Beaver. A darker, funnier We’re the Millers might have kept the characters tough, devious and self-serving right to the final fadeout.

Oh well, that’s another, maybe less commercial, movie. At least Sudeikis is less blandly smug than usual, even if he’s still doing his patented a-hole role, and he and Aniston (playing one of those 44-year-old exotic dancers who strip in a bra) spark nicely enough in their scenes together. Aniston not only looks great but actually seems to be having one hell of a good time; she puts such a nice snap on her snarkiest lines that it's almost like we're really seeing what she might be capable of on film for the first time. Young Brit actor Poulter is the movie’s Easter egg, though. He manages to find humanity under the comedy of constant humiliation. There’s also a fun sidebar plot involving Nick Offerman (as always, a scene-stealer) playing a sidelined DEA officer on enforced vacation with his wife (the hilarious Kathryn Hahn) and daughter (Molly Quinn). Unfortunately, they and their talented fellow cast members are stuck on a long and winding road all too often traveled.

But here's the thing. After a summer full of big, bloated disappointments, here's a movie that aims straight for the funny bone and never lets up. Audiences up for a raucous, R-rated good time should give it a big, wet, sloppy kiss.

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