8/15/2013 - A minor drug dealer smuggles marijuana from Mexico with the help of a pretend “perfect” family in We’re The Millers, a refreshingly goofy late summer comedy.
David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) is a low-level pot dealer, who, as a friend points out after a chance meeting, is either blissfully or sadly not much different from his days as a drug dealer in college. He backpacks it around, wearing a few days’ stubble and a slightly wistful look about not having the family and responsibilities that drive his customers to the occasional toke. Perhaps it’s this urge for something more in life that drives him to protect, against his better judgment, the neighbor teen Kenny (Will Poulter) from a group of muggers. The muggers get David and his stash of drugs and cash instead, leaving David in deep trouble with his boss, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms). Brad offers David a way to work off his debt: go to Mexico and bring back a smidge of marijuana. Certain that a scruffy single guy like himself will get pulled over immediately by border guards, David develops a plan. He enlists the neglected Kenny and teenage street punk Casey (Emma Roberts) to play his kids, and his neighbor, stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), to play his wife. Decked out in khakis and hair product, this group of misfits might be able to pass in front of Customs as just an average family of suburbanites out for a road trip in an RV. But will they be able to keep their cover around fellow middle-Americans like the Fitzgeralds (Nick Offerman, Katherine Hahn) while still staying tough enough to deal with other drug dealers (let by Tomer Sisley) who are out to get them?
If I had to sum up what makes this movie work (-ish) in one word, it would be this: swearing. This doesn’t work with all comedies, but for a few the combination of dumb premise plus sufficient amounts of swearing comes together in just the right way to equal a kind of relaxing, brainless fun. There are an infinite number of alternate universes where just one element is slightly different and this is a terrible slog of a caper movie in the vein of, oh, so many things, but let’s just use The Hangover Part II as an easy example of when stupid story plus swearing does not equal hilarity. And in fairness, I don’t know that We’re The Millers ever truly rises to the level of “hilarious,” but it is plenty funny. I laughed, and not a mean-spirited smug laugh but a genuine, out-loud laugh from time to time. Jason Sudeikis is perfectly calibrated to pull off this role, right down to an excellent eyebrow shrug at the camera during Jennifer Aniston’s requisite strip-dance-in-mom-clothes scene. It’s the kind of part any other number of actors could have been cast for — anyone in the late aughts comedy soup where you’d find Ed Helms and Zach Galafianakis — but that somehow he pulls off in a way I don’t think anyone else could. He is the exact blend of decent, dorkiness and scummy needed for this part.
Meanwhile, Aniston’s role is, on its face, kind of a funny throwaway but look a bit deeper and you sense she’s doing something funnier and darker with the America’s sweetheart nonsense she’s had to lug around all these years. If she’s smart and we’re lucky, she’s about to head into later-years Sandra Bullock territory.
We’re The Millers isn’t genius but it makes being funny — not wacky or, thank God, edgy — the priority and succeeds enough times to make the movie fun, buoyant low-pressure entertainment. B-
Rated R for crude sexual content, drug material, brief graphic nudity and, of course, all that excellent swearing. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber and written by Bob Fisher & Steve Faber and Sean Anders & John Morris, We’re The Millers is an hour and 50 minutes long and distributed by Warner Bros.