“We’re The Millers” opens Wednesday at Point, Eastgate and Star Cinema. R, 1:40, two and a half stars out of four.
There’s something almost refreshingly mean-spirited about the first few minutes of the raunchy comedy “We’re the Millers.” Our hero, David (Jason Sudeikis) is a Denver pot dealer who is utterly selfish and snarky. Our heroine, Rose (Jennifer Aniston) is a weary, flinty stripper who has seen too much. Add in Emma Roberts as a foul-mouthed homeless teen and you’ve got one of the least likable collections of characters since your average Todd Solondz movie.
“We’re the Millers,” which was co-written by DeForest native Sean Anders, successfully rides on that ill will for a while. David is hired by his drug supplier Brad (Ed Helms, playing a satisfyingly menacing version of his usual grinning goofball) to transport a “smidge-and-a-half” of marijuana from Mexico to Denver. The scruffy David is sure he’ll be caught at the border, but comes up with an idea. He’ll clean himself up and hire Rose, Casey and a sweet but dim teen named Kenny (Will Poulter) to play his family, a clean-cut All-American family taking the RV out for their summer vacation.
Of course, it doesn’t all go as planned — that “smidge-and-a-half” turns out to be two metric tons, crammed into every available space in the RV. And there are the usual comic setpieces involving a corrupt cop (Luis Guzman), a nasty tarantula, and most entertainingly, a fellow straight-arrow couple (Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn) who think they’ve found fellow suburban travelers in the Millers. Some of it works better than others — Hahn and Offerman are very funny as the naive Midwestern couple looking to spice up their marriage — but what carries it through is the sheer meanness of the Millers. Beneath their polo shirts and pastel skirts, they snipe viciously at each other along the way, and the best parts come when their fighting aligns with that of a real family, with Sudeikis as the harried dad and Roberts as the rebellious teen. “I will turn this RV around RIGHT NOW!” David thunders. “No drugs for anyone!”
But, inevitably, things have to turn sweet, and this fake family has to start appreciating each other as a real family. And that’s where “We’re the Millers” falters; trying to turn such acerbic raunch into a sweet redemptive comedy is like trying to negotiate an RV around a hairpin turn, and “We’re the Millers” just can’t make it. Sudeikis in particular does sour a lot better than he does sweet, and his attempts at the end of the film to keep his “family” together just do not ring true.
Up until then, though, “Millers” is good dirty fun. And if it in any way reminds you of your own family road trips, a little group therapy might be in order.