We’re The Millers is kind of a perfect storm of crude humor with a dash of heart. Combining the talents of Dodgeball director Rawson Marshall Thurber with the screenwriting teams separately responsible for Wedding Crashers and Hot Tub Time Machine, the film features a barrage of laughs with dynamic, engaging characters who come into their own. Key to the comedic success are keen observations on responsibility, adulthood, parenthood, and family life, consistently delivered in a believable, entertaining manner. Such brains and flow in turn take what could have been a conventional road comedy and, in a most pleasant surprise, make it one of the year’s funniest films.
Posing as an All-American family to detract from their true drug-smuggling intentions, pot dealer David (Jason Sudeikis), stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), punk runaway Casey (Emma Roberts), and nerdy virgin Kenny (Will Poulter) gradually act the part, but not without plenty of amusing snags along the way. Essentially three foul-mouthed deviants and one naive teenage boy, the concept of a happy unit may be foreign to these loners, but they’ve seen enough examples to be convincing. This awareness of society brings with it an ability to manipulate others on short notice to further sell the con, even when the false foursome appear doomed. Though initially on thin ice, once Rose transforms the bickering clan into a prayer circle, the sight of which brings a previously suspicious onlooker to tears, the crew seem up to the challenge and, as this and other such scenes prove, capable of unexpected depth.
On their trip to and from Mexico, “the Millers” do their best to simply complete their mission while resisting the family dynamic that they each in some way crave. Though the faces they assume in public are ridiculous Norman Rockwell caricatures, outside of society’s gaze cliché family roles and sayings organically arise as if the four (especially the “parents”) can’t help but embody these roles. Out of sight is also where some of their funniest and most significant personal growth occurs with the particular twists that the bizarre situation encourages. Through this lens, something fairly innocent like Rose and Casey’s hands-on kissing advice for Kenny becomes wholly different to an onlooker. Unfolding with near Hitchcockian suspense, sure that they’ll be discovered, the scene exquisitely utilizes the predicament and milks it for maximum laughter.
We’re The Millers is full of such winning moments, but even with the gut-busting and sharp social commentary, the film has its share of rough spots. Clocking in at 110 minutes, it runs a little long and could probably do without a visual gross-out sequence and its subsequent tangent. It’s also during this stretch that the predictability of a few relationship arcs unintentionally shine though, suddenly leaving the film on wobbly footing. Here and elsewhere, however, the material is still edgy enough to keep things amusing, and when the film’s primary goal is laughter, by then it’s more than achieved its goal.
Grade: B (though the pre-credits bloopers may push it to a B+)
Rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity.
We’re The Millers is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.