“Take a Raucous Road Trip with The Millers”
The new gross-out comedy We’re The Millers is so funny, audiences won’t realize how empty the film really is until they’re reached their houses. A very likeable cast, including a very sexy Jennifer Aniston as a stripper undercover as a soccer mom, and lots of crazy jokes save the movie from being an annoyance.
The plot is completely transparent, but the jokes match the best of the Farrelly brothers’ comedies There’s Something About Mary and Kingpin. Dave (Jason Sudeikis), a low-level drug dealer who has been slinging pot since college, loses the stash and money of a powerful kingpin (Ed Helms). Dave needs to pay his boss back and so accepts a dangerous mission to smuggle drugs over the Mexican border. Hoping to be less conspicuous, Dave hires a stripper neighbor (Aniston), a teen runaway (Emma Roberts) and a virginal boy abandoned by his mom (Will Poulter) to portray his Norman Rockwell family. A five-year-old can predict that the scheme will fall apart and that this troupe of misfit toys will eventually become a viable unit.
Writers Bob Fisher & Steve Faber were responsible for Wedding Crashers while their co-writers Sean Anders and John Morris concocted Hot Tub Time Machine, two raunchy comedies that were also superficial but a hoot. We’re The Millers utilizes shock humor, including genitalia and perverse sexual practices, to keep audiences from noticing that no one is a fully-fleshed-out person and character development is a foreign language. It is a testament to the cast that audiences grow to care about this rag-tag team.
Sudeikis has the most difficult role, since Dave Miller is such a shallow, self-involved character and his transformation is a script contrivance. Somehow Sudeikis’ delivery grants audiences exposure to his pathos even when his character is at his most obnoxious. Aniston displays an innate comic timing that was always front and center on Friends. Responsible for two stripteases in the film, Aniston is so sexy that Brad Pitt and John Mayer must be eating their hats. Poulter, as the dorky teen desperate for familial bonding, is earnest and endearing. The scene when he’s taught to kiss by his faux sister and mother is naughty. Roberts, as the rebellious homeless girl who nonetheless craves boundaries, may lack the irresistibility of her aunt, Julia, but she is still a likeable actress and has fun with her role. Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman (both from TV’s Parks and Recreation) as the small town couple who become the Millers’ foils, believably reveal a mischievous desperation to which audiences can relate and knowingly chuckle. Helms chews the scenery as the boyish drug lord who seems more rambunctious than deadly.
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber —who helmed the similarly silly Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story — keeps launching the jokes like missiles. But where Dodgeball balanced sentimentality with edge, The Millers lays the schmaltz on too thick, begging audiences to love the characters without backing it up with substance. We’re The Millers is essentially a live-action cartoon. Sappiness has no place in a cartoon. Grade: B