From the start, “We’re The Millers” makes it clear it’s not going to try very hard. In fact, the film opens by leaning on a montage/sizzle reel of YouTube clips as an easy layup for laughs in order to get audiences already chuckling and in the mood for the patchy comedy to come. The double rainbow guy, the streaker who runs into a glass door and even the cute surprised kitty are all shamelessly pulled together in what is eventually revealed to be a pretty thin excuse to build character for David (Jason Sudeikis), a thirty-something pot dealer who does little more than sling dimebags, attempt to hit on his stripper neighbour Rose (Jennifer Aniston) while pretty much holding an unreasonable amount of contempt for anyone who isn’t him. Of course, by the end of the movie he’ll get the girl, his heart will grow a couple of sizes, and he’ll learn the value of family or at least caring for people. But before he earns those bits of realization, he’ll have to go Mexico first.
To give credit where it’s due, “We’re The Millers” thankfully doesn’t waste much time to get the story in motion. After getting inadvertently shamed by an old college pal (a cameo appearance by Thomas Lennon) for not having a family or any real responsibilities, David is robbed by a gang of teen thugs, who take his stash of drugs and all the money in his safe (it doesn’t make any sense, and it’s not worth explaining how all this goes down). Anyway, his supplier Brad (Ed Helms in full smarm mode) is not very pleased, but offers him a deal: smuggle an RV full of pot back from Mexico, and not only will David’s debt be forgiven, he’ll pay him $100,000. And so, David decides to put together a fake family as cover, and enlists the help of Rose, Casey (Emma Roberts), a street kid he was trying to help escape from the gang of teens that wound up robbing him, and Kenny (Will Poulter), a superdork whose lives in the same building as David and whose parents seem to have abandoned him.
With the team lined up, the roadtrip comedy begins. David and his fake family the Millers pick up the weed, successfully crossing the border and managing to find most of their trouble on American soil, as they make their way back home. When the heavily loaded RV gets overheated and breaks down, it’s the arrival of the Fitzgerald family that gives the movie some of its more potent laughs. Unsurprisingly, it’s thanks to Nick Offerman and the always reliable Kathryn Hahn, who take their one note characters of Don and Edie—a sexually frustrated, vaguely religious married couple with a daughter (Molly C. Quinn) conveniently the same age as Kenny—and kick it up a couple more notches than were likely there on the page. Of course, that Nick happens to be a DEA agent on hiatus is a plot contrivance that will be handy in the latter stages of the movie, but their presence in the middle third of the picture helps alleviate the otherwise too long and dreadfully paced picture, that runs almost unforgivably nearly two hours long. (A movie with a story this throwaway should never run longer than 90 minutes). And we’re not even going to get into the double-crosses and how this story gets a bit more needlessly complicated along the way.
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who helmed the similarly goofy and loose but much funnier “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” the film suggests he relies heavily on the stars to do the heavy lifting in his movies. There is certainly no sense of craft in “We’re The Millers” which seems like it was shot exactly as it was scripted (except for whatever lines were ad-libbed), and then simply pasted together, with no attention paid to moments that sag and stretches where none of the jokes work. Sudeikis hasn’t yet made the case that he’s leading man material (though more people should track down the underrated “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy“), and his kinda asshole-ish character here is hardly endearing. While he does deliver some choice jokes, he lacks any chemistry with Aniston, his supposed love interest. Granted, she isn’t given much to do except bicker with Sudeikis and perform a completely unnecessary striptease. (Can we call a moratorium on comedies starring Aniston that require her to strip down for some reason or another?). The only cast member who delivers the fearlessness the rest of the ensemble and movie itself could’ve used is Will Poulter as Kenny, and he gamely throws himself at a part that features no shortage of embarrassments and yet still comes out naively sweet and charming. He also has much more heart than the story tries lamely to give Sudeikis, especially with its unbelievable and contrived finale.
“We’re The Millers” isn’t really a bad movie, so much as its inoffensively and instantly forgettable. You will laugh here and there, but you probably won’t laugh even more. It’ll help pass a couple of hours, though there are probably better ways you could spend your time, and it somewhat half-hugs the R-rating just enough that with some careful edits and overdubs, you’ll probably watch bits and pieces of this during the commercials of other, better shows and movies on cable forever. In “We’re The Millers,” David has to go all the way to Mexico to learn the true value of meaningful relationships with others, though the lesson you might learn in going to see the movie, is that even bothering to make the trip to your local multiplex for this probably isn’t worth it. [C-]