If the mind of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” director, Harold Ramis, was to morph with the unkempt, lewd intellect of Bob Saget or Louis C.K., you’d have the framework for We’re the Millers. It mixes harmless family humor with blandly offensive material, creating a slapstick comedy that, against what some may think is a good mix, garners a recommendation.
Those concerns are duly noted, however, a viewer will tell right from the get-go that We’re the Millers is a shallowly construed, nonsensical adventure, with a script that doesn’t ask anyone to think too profoundly. And by God, the unparalleled humor of Jason Sudeikis (“Hall Pass”) shines, along with that of Will Poulter (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader), who now stands to become a notable comedy newcomer.
The raucous adventure begins when low-level marijuana dealer, David Clark (Sudeikis) gets robbed outside of his apartment building after attempting to break up a fight that’s erupted between a few back-alley punks and a runaway teenage girl named Casey Mathis (Emma Roberts, “The Art of Getting By”) and a quirky dweeb named Kenny Rossmore (Poulter). Unfortunately for David, the money lost belonged to his supplier, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms, “The Hangover Part 3), and, well you know, shortchanging your dealer isn’t a good way to stay in business (or alive for that matter).
Ever the reasonable man though, the Orca-loving drug lord, “recommends” David to repay his debt by traveling to Mexico to retrieve a “smidge” of “mari-jew-wana.” Drug smuggling is a dangerous proposition (or so I’m told), so, to lessen the odds of getting busted, David decides to rent a family for the excursion. The “happy-to-be-on-vacation-Millers” are the two teens from the altercation that started this whole mess and mom Sarah “Rose” O’Reilly (Jennifer Aniston, “Horrible Bosses”), a stripper who lives in the same complex as David.
The laughs — and there are some very good ones — come quickly and usually at the expense of the newly minted “family” and their interactions but there are others to be had from external forces as well. As the gang begins to bond, they face dilemmas from: Border patrol, infuriated cartel members, the birds and the bees, and the Fitzgerald family — Don, Edie and Melissa (Nick Offerman, TV series “Parks and Recreation,” Kathryn Hahn, “Wanderlust” and Molly Quinn, TV series “Castle,” respectively).
Many of these asinine situations have been seen before in one form or another, but they generally feel fresh in the production. That’s due in part because, as mentioned, Sudeikis brings his A-game and Poulter (or should I call him “eyebrows?”) is delightfully awkward and enthusiastic. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (“Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”), gets some credit too as he stays out of the way and allows the humor to flow relatively steadily throughout. As for the rest of the cast, including the very shapely Jennifer Aniston, they’re good for at least a smile or two.
But even though We’re the Millers isn’t always the funniest or teeming with ingenuity (although it is the first movie that I’ve come away from having learned the words to the TLC song “Waterfalls”), it is still in the running for the year’s best adult-themed comedy. As Don Fitzgerald said in one of the movie’s funniest moments, “We’re looking to spice things up a bit.” Luckily, Thurber and team did just that.