It's a good time to be an R-rated comedy, as the Hangover trilogy has emboldened a whole new flock of raunchy efforts that use their salty rating as part of the selling point. At a time when Ted and The Heat and Bridesmaids are giant hits, why wouldn't you throw in a few extra F-bombs to get some of that transgressive appeal? But not every comedy premise is going to translate to R-rated extremes, and We're The Millers takes what seems to be a script from a decade-old, PG-13 Robin Williams vehicle-- RV, maybe?-- and forces it unsuccessfully through the Horrible Bosses filter. A film with this many funny people in it should never strain so hard for its meager laughs.
Proving once again to be effortlessly, smarmily likable, Jason Sudeikis plays David, a petty pot dealer who, in his one moment of doing something good-hearted, gets robbed of his entire stash and all his money. Forced by his sharklike supplier (Ed Helms) into becoming a drug mule to pay back what he owes, David concocts the scheme to assemble a fake family as his cover for traveling across the Mexican border laden with many pounds of pot. After some clanking exposition he's joined in a top-of-the-line RV by his stripper neighbor Rose (Jennifer Aniston) as his fake wife, local gutter punk Casey (Emma Roberts, history's least-convincing gutter punk) as his fake daughter, and goofy neighbor kid Kenny (Will Poulter) as his fake son.
They manage to pick up the weed without much difficulty, actually, but the trouble comes after, in the kinds of obstacles that are familiar from every family-adventure comedy from The Out-of-Towners to National Lampoon's Vacation. There's another RV-driving family (Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman) who just won't stop trying to be their friends. There's the drug dealer (Tomer Sisley) who wants his drugs back. There's the Mexican cop (poor Luis Guzman) who wants a specific kind of favor to overlook their drug stash. There's a broken-down RV, a spider bite, some "unexpected" romance-- check, check, check.
Rawson Marshall Thurber, whose last comedy was 2004's Dodgeball, directs with requisite energy and enthusiasm, but it's the script-- written by no fewer than four people, including Hot Tub Time Machine writers Sean Anders and John Morris-- that lets down so much of the talent assembled here. Probably half of the jokes are about sex, and they're all over the map, from a squeamish sequence of Sudeikis trying to persuade his fake son to give a cop a blow job to a long scene of Aniston doing a striptease inside a warehouse, ostensibly as a diversion to help the gang escape but largely a leering, pointless opportunity to ogle Aniston's toned bod. An endless scene inside a tent watches Sudeikis and Aniston squirm at the idea of being approached by swingers, but also lingers long on Kathryn Hahn grabbing Aniston's breasts-- hey, it's hot when ladies do it, right? The film veers from that to a sickly sweet story about Kenny trying to have his first kiss, and then right back into watching Kenny practice kissing with his fake mom and sister. It's "anything for a laugh" scattershot comedy, but straining inside a framework of a plot-heavy story we're told ought to make sense.
Aniston and Sudeikis almost save it. When he's not calling her "just a dirty stripper" and she's not acting idiotic just for the sake of keeping the plot going, the two have a fantastic rapport, prodding each other with the perfect level of animosity that eventually, obviously, blossoms into love. Aside from a handful of solid visual gags and every single deadpan line from Offerman, Aniston and Sudeikis are the only things able to rise above the constant mediocrity of We're The Millers, a movie so lazy that it opens with clips from famous YouTube videos, just to prime the pump for laughs. The raunchy R-rated comedy and the family comedy have probably deserved to meet again since National Lampoon's Vacation, but the mash-up has got to make more sense than it does here.