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Film Review: ‘We’re the Millers’

This tiresomely vulgar outing should run out of B.O. gas once word gets out.

With:
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Will Poulter, Ed Helms, Molly Quinn, Tomer Sisley, Matthew Willig, Luis Guzman.

We’re the Millers” is about four unfortunate individuals tricked into going on an excruciating road trip in exchange for a hefty payday, a description that is offered here less as plot summary than as a possible explanation for why the actors look so trapped. Probably the worst movie to prominently feature an RV since “RV,” this tiresomely vulgar outing throws together a drug dealer, a stripper, two teens, a testicle-biting tarantula, a gaggle of gun-waving Mexican stereotypes and scarcely a single laugh amid all the ensuing pot-smuggling, booty-shaking, heart-tugging shenanigans. “We’re the Filler” might have been a more apt title for Warners’ mid-August dud, which should run out of B.O. gas once word gets out.

Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis barely shared any screentime in the much funnier “Horrible Bosses,” a situation that has been rather dubiously rectified in this vehicle helmed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (the much funnier “Dodgeball”) and written by the dual duos of Bob Fisher and Steve Faber (the much funnier “Wedding Crashers”), and Sean Anders and John Morris (the much funnier “Hot Tub Time Machine,” but also the similarly unfunny “Sex Drive”).

Sudeikis plays David Clark, a smart-alecky Denver bachelor who makes a living selling marijuana out of his backpack to a largely upper-middle-class clientele. His job gets a lot tougher when he loses $43,000 worth of cash and contraband to local thugs, leaving him at the mercy of his slick, obscenely wealthy supplier (Ed Helms), who orders him to go down Mexico way, pick up his latest shipment and bring it safely across the border — or else. David concludes the only way he’ll make it past the border guards and their pot-sniffing pooches is by renting a motor home and pretending to be a squeaky-clean, all-American family man, passing through on his way home from a trip with his wife and kids.

To pull this off, he’ll need a convincing-looking family, and so with the promise of mucho moolah, he gets his neighbor, down-on-her-luck stripper Rose (Aniston), to pose as his adoring wife — which proves a challenge, since the two can barely stand each other. Casey (Emma Roberts), the surly teenage runaway who agrees to play their daughter, isn’t crazy about them, either. The only one genuinely happy to be along for the ride is their “son,” Kenny (Will Poulter), a sweet, awkward kid who naturally endures the brunt of the pic’s humiliations once the Millers, as they call themselves, fly down to New Mexico and head south of the border.

These include encounters with the aforementioned spider, necessitating some hideously convincing swollen-scrotum prosthetics, as well as a portly gay cop (Luis Guzman) who demands a bribe in exchange for overlooking the two metric tons of marijuana they have stashed aboard their RV. And then there’s Don and Edie Fitzgerald (Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn), an ingratiatingly folksy, salt-of-the-earth couple who are on vacation with their daughter (Molly Quinn), and who insist on spending as much time with the Millers as possible.

Even a premise this stupidly contrived stands a fair chance of working if there are a few decent yuks to be had, but absent any such inspiration, “We’re the Millers” falls back on the sort of lazy but desperate, sexually fixated non sequiturs that have become de rigueur in studio comedies, jabbing repeatedly at the human groin in hopes of eventually hitting something funny. Thus Edie offers up unsolicited information about her odd genital condition, and mispronounces the word “tampon,” a bit of comedic foreplay leading up to a mirthless, cringe-inducing scene in which she and her husband mistake Mr. and Mrs. Miller for a couple of swingers.

Just as misguided is the script’s suggestion that these four mismatched misfits are in fact lonely, hurting individuals who, wouldn’t you know, just need some semblance of a family unit in order to meet their neglected emotional needs. As they shoulder the burden of turning this wannabe-dark comedy into a strained exercise in uplift, the actors become especially sympathetic — none more so than Aniston, who proves far more game than the material deserves, especially when she’s forced to deliver a slow-motion striptease for the benefit of a Mexican drug lord (Tomer Sisley), a weirdly conflicted scene in which the film seems to be pitying, mocking and exploiting her all at once.

Hahn’s high-pitched squeals and Offerman’s soft-spoken sensitivity come off as more sweet and endearing than creepy in the long run; Roberts is unremarkably sullen, and British thesp Poulter proves a very good sport with his eager-to-please routine. As the resourceful jerk who sets everything in motion, Sudeikis brings his usual energetic, fast-talking comic bravado to the party, though David’s snarky one-liners about everything from LeBron James to Bane’s voice in “The Dark Knight Rises” feel hardly worth the actor’s efforts.

Elsewhere, the pic’s pop-culture references tilt decidedly ’90s, perhaps signaled by the presence of Aniston (“Friends” gets a shoutout in the end-credits bloopers) and borne out by an impromptu but depressingly forced group sing-along to TLC’s “Waterfalls.” Shot in North Carolina and New Mexico, the pic is adequately assembled.

Film Review: 'We're the Millers'

Reviewed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, Calif., July 31, 2013. (In Locarno Film Festival — Piazza Grande.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 110 MIN.

Production: A Warner Bros. release of a New Line Cinema presentation of a Newman/Tooley Films, Slap Happy Prods./Heyday Films and Benderspink production. Produced by Vincent Newman, Tucker Tooley, Happy Walters, Chris Bender. Executive producers, David Heyman, J.C. Spink, Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Dave Neustadter, Marcus Viscidi.

Crew: Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Screenplay, Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, John Morris; story, Fisher, Faber. Camera (Fotokem color, Arriflex widescreen), Barry Peterson; editor, Mike Sale; music, Theodore Shapiro, Ludwig Goransson; music supervisor, George Drakoulias; production designer, Clayton Hartley; art director, Elliott Glick; set decorator, Chuck Potter; costume designer, Shay Cunliffe; sound (Dolby Digital/Datasat/SDDS), Jonathan Gaynor; supervising sound editor, George Anderson; sound designer, Cindy Marty; re-recording mixers, Elmo Weber, Brad Sherman; visual effects supervisor, David D. Johnson; visual effects, Pacific Vision Prods.; assistant director, Mary Ellen Woods; casting, Lisa Beach, Sarah Katzman.

With: Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Will Poulter, Ed Helms, Molly Quinn, Tomer Sisley, Matthew Willig, Luis Guzman.

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