For a comedy that relies on false identities and keeping up appearances, We’re the Millers doesn’t have anybody fooled.
It masquerades as an amusing tale of squabbling small-time crooks who are over their heads, but quickly dispenses with any pretense of originality for a compilation of low-brow formulaic gags about dysfunctional families, stupid criminals and road trips.
It starts with David (Jason Sudeikis), a low-level suburban drug dealer who is robbed by street thugs prior to delivering cash to his supplier (Ed Helms), a ruthless and impatient sort who gives David one final chance to square the deal. He must venture to Mexico to retrieve a marijuana shipment and smuggle it back.
David’s plan involves renting a motorhome and persuading some of his struggling neighbors — including a stripper (Jennifer Aniston), a runaway (Emma Roberts) and a nerdy loner (Will Poulter) — to split the resulting money in exchange for helping to form a makeshift family to fool customs officials. Of course, the scheme is loaded with complications from the get-go.
As stupid as these characters are, everyone around them is even more so, such as the bumbling drug kingpin (Tomer Sisley) who is outwitted by the Millers every step of the way, or the oblivious drug-enforcement agent (Nick Offerman) and his shrill wife (Kathryn Hahn) who befriend the family during a cross-country RV trip.
It gets even worse once the tone inevitably changes in an attempt to generate sympathy for the Miller clan by portraying them as the real victims who just need some quality family time. The film’s tugs at the heartstrings feel more like kicks to the groin.
We’re the Millers delivers a few sporadic laughs with some sight gags and one-liners, but the uninspired script (credited to no less than four screenwriters) consistently confuses crude for edgy and tasteless for hilarious. And it seems to have no feel for comic pacing, with some extremely labored jokes involving incest, gay stereotypes and illegal immigration.
The film, directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) is aggressively sophomoric and scores mildly on that level. However, it’s worth pondering whether the target audience will be able to grasp that the moral here — that crime does pay, as long as you’re funny — isn’t meant to be taken seriously.
Rated R, 110 minutes.