The problems of R-rated comedies in general are all too evident in We’re the Millers. It is built on a shaky foundation of big and outrageous gags and sexual swagger, some suitable for trailers, some expected to generate word of mouth.
But what’s missing is a plot that does not drag, and people who make no sense in the context of the story. No matter how many F-bombs the dialogue may contain, the main characters are just about the goshdarnedest pot dealer, stripper and homeless kid you will ever meet.
In the script by veterans of Wedding Crashers and Hot Tub Time Machine, Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis stars as David Clark, a guy who was dealing weed in college and now, years later, is doing the same. He lives in the same apartment building as Rose O’Reilly (Aniston), a stripper whose life is headed downhill, and Kenny Rossmore (Will Poulter), a young man left behind by his mother.
An attempt to help out homeless girl Casey Mathis (Emma Roberts) leads instead to David’s getting robbed of both his stash and the money he owes his drug-dealing boss (Ed Helms). To settle the debt, he agrees to go to Mexico to pick up some pot and bring it back to the States. To avoid making the border guards suspicious, David decides to go as a family man in an RV — with the family consisting of the hired-on Rose, Kenny and Casey.
Of course, it turns out that he’s getting more marijuana than expected, and it has some dangerous strings attached, and the ride home is not as easy as hoped. This leads to encounters with folks like the Fitzgeralds (Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn and Molly Quinn), a real RV-traveling family with some surprises to share with the Millers. It also leads to gunplay, slapstick and more than a few laughs. Big ones, too, although the outtakes at the end of the film are in some cases funnier than a lot of what was left in the main part of the movie.
But there aren’t really enough laughs to sustain the movie, especially when it has to shove along its wildly contrived plot like a balky RV going up a steep hill. Then there’s the question of the main characters; all except Kenny come from very rough circumstances, but they’re not really all that tough or cynical; the movie may be R, but the people are mostly PG. Even Aniston’s much-promoted stripper dance isn’t all that much.
As for the performances, Sudeikis and Aniston pretty much coast. Poulter, very good in the indie film Son of Rambow, is the standout among the main players, not least because he is given some of the best setups; Offerman and especially Hahn bring expected flair to their supporting roles. But the movie is made for eventual home viewing, where you can skip through the many weak parts to enjoy the scattershot humorous successes.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org,