With “We’re the Millers,” you know exactly what you’re going to get before you enter the theater. It’s a road trip comedy with a cast of mismatched characters racing to get to the finish line. We just about saw this very same movie earlier this summer with “Identity Thief,” which was a funnier film and had the benefit of Melissa McCarthy’s wonderful performance. But “We’re the Millers” has more than enough funny moments to keep it from becoming stale and Jason Sudeikis’s extremely likeable persona makes for a welcome comedic leading role.
Sudeikis is David Clark, a small-time pot dealer who loses his stash and money during a stickup. To compensate for his loss, his evil-doer boss (Ed Helms) sends him on a journey to Mexico to retrieve a shipment of weed from a notorious drug lord and mule it back into the states. He entices his neighbors, Rose (Aniston), a struggling stripper, Kenny (Will Poulter), a bored, naïve teenager and Casey (Emma Roberts), a homeless girl to pretend to be a close-nit, upstanding family in order to avert suspicion as they cross the border. Of course the situation gets dicey when the Millers are mistaken for stealing from the drug lord become hunted on the trip home.
Sudeikis gives a whimsical and breezy performance as the head of the imposter Miller family. At his core he is a greedy, insensitive and vitriolic dude but has to pretend to be Mr. Nice Guy, which allows the SNL alum to have quite some fun with the role. With all the recent comedies of this sort, it’s a surprise we haven’t seen more of Sudeikis in the leading role. In his first post-SNL role, he proves he can hold his own.
Aniston, on the other hand, is quite subdued. She acts more like Sudeikis’ wingman than an actual source of comedy. She has some sporadic funny moments throughout the picture, like being caught kissing her fake son, but for the most part she is serious and down to business, letting the supporting cast handle the comedic weight.
As a whole, Sudeikis, Aniston and their two pretend children perform not as individual comedians, but as a straight family, if you will, to an entire cast of supporting goofballs. There’s Ed Helms, who has a brief stint mocking Bond villains with his exorbitant shark tank; or Luis Guzman as a pervy Mexican cop and Scott Adsit as a very confused doctor.
But it’s Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as two enraptured swingers who steal the show. Hahn from her first appearance is a burst of energy that enables the rest of the cast to be better. Offerman’s stoic DEA agent is a humorous contrast to Hahn’s exuberance. The swinger scene, which is spoiled during the film’s trailer, is a good dose of awkward comedy. But it’s the moments following that scene when Offerman and Hahn try to reconnect with Sudeikis and Aniston in a stalkerish manner that become the highlights.
Young British actor Will Poulter (“Son of Rambow”) does a remarkable job at playing the awkward teenaged Kenny struggling with growing pains. He deftly balances the teen angst with the slapstick and is an actor to keep an eye open for in the future.
As a road trip film, “We’re the Millers” is predisposed to some expected formulaic pratfalls, which it hits every time. Each stop along the journey is treated like a small vignette, each more outrageous than the previous. While some are funnier than others, the formula makes for an enjoyable ride and allows the characters to dig their collective hole a little deeper, which makes watching them attempt to scramble out all the more entertaining.
Of course there’s the gratuitous Jennifer Aniston stripping scene, though its gratuity is the point of the joke (or is it?). Either way, if you have any desire to see Jennifer Aniston slowly strip to her pasties on a huge movie screen, with industrial flares and sparks exploding behind her, here is your chance. The real comedy, though, would have been if that was Nick Offerman instead.
With a wonderful supporting cast and a nice leading role for Sudeikis, “We’re the Millers” is a solid effort in the road trip genre and features more laughs than not.
MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes.