Another entry into the potty-mouthed Hollywood comedy that has become trendy as of late, We’re the Millers functions as a series of well-performed gross-out and profanity-laden jokes tied loosely together by a simple plot that Cheech & Chong wouldn’t look out of place tied up in.
The film centres on David Clark (Jason Sudeikis), a pot dealer who is ordered by his nefarious boss (Ed Helms) to travel down to Mexico and smuggle back a “smidgen and a half” of drugs and bring it back by a certain time. Realizing he would get stopped if he travelled by himself, David comes up with a plan to create a fake family – made up of stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), teen runaway Casey (Emma Roberts) and unsuspecting neighbour Kenny (Will Poulter) – on a pretend vacation in an RV.
We’re the Millers succeeds at what it’s aiming to do largely on the strength of its well placed cast. Yes, Sudeikis is stepping into a role that readily could have been filled by Jason Bateman but his snide remarks and comic timing more than does the job. Similarly Roberts, whose “I don’t give a damn” teen runaway provides an amusing counterpoint to the controlling head of the family who just wants to get the job done.
Aniston is channeling more of the Horrible Bosses vibe, once again going against the good girl Friends persona she was so long known for. Though the film’s leering attitude towards her is arguably gimmicky and unnecessary – a scene, I suppose you would call it a set-piece, sees her stripping in front her newfound family and a drug lord in an auto-repair shop – she’s clearly having a lot of fun doing it and she’d probably embrace that sort of criticism rather than shun it. The racy nature of the role is doubtless why she signed on.
However, the real stand out is Poulter, a Brit utterly convincing as an American teen, with pitch-perfect comic timing and some of the best scenes in the whole film; one in particular that will make people who are Arachnophobic and generally men everywhere squirm in their seats as it attempts to rival the famous zipper scene from There’s Something About Mary. Even though he’s hitherto an unknown to most US audiences, he’s been impressing over here in the UK from his first ever role in the terrific Son of Rambow onwards, finally solidifying himself as a young British talent to watch after his brilliant performance in last year’s Wild Bill. With this, it seems, he’s found US comedy very well and long may it continue.
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (who made the endlessly rewatchable silly-fest that is Dodgeball) has delivered a film that flits between shock-value sight gags, pop culture references, drug and sexual humour almost with arms flailed. As it does when it remembers there’s actually supposed to be a plot that needs sticking to, into which it throws some requisite ham-fisted sentimentality about how they’ve grown to be a dysfunctional family that just happens not to be related.
It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, hitting certain generic beats in almost checklist-ticking fashion along its journey; they meet another, weirder family (headed by Parks and Recreation stars Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn) while on the road and misunderstandings ensue, for example. But it’s crucially chucklesome throughout and provides some stand out moments involving a great cast that ultimately make this road-trip comedy work despite its flaws.
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