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Film review: WE’RE THE MILLERS, from Built For Speed

We’re the Millers is one of this year’s guilty pleasures.  Even though it’s low-brow, formulaic and implausible, it’s still an enjoyable comedy.  The film bubbles away in an amiable, mildly risqué fashion that recalls the National Lampoon Vacation movies.  Its trump card is a fine cast of comedy actors led by Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston whose well-honed comic timing renders them likeable even when they’re behaving like complete sleazebags.

Jason Sudeikis plays David, a bottom-feeding drug dealer who, after being rolled by some very wimpy looking hoods, finds himself in serious debt to weird drug king-pin Brad (Ed Helms).  To save himself from severe bodily harm, David agrees to transport what he thinks will be a small stash of marijuana from Mexico into the US.  Understandably concerned about being collard by border guards, David thinks he can deflect suspicion from himself if he poses as a nerdy family man; the only problem is that he doesn’t have a family.  Against all logic he manages to recruit down-at-heel stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston) as his pretend wife and awkward teen neighbour Kenny (Will Poulter) and snarky teenage runaway Casey (Emma Roberts) as his pretend children.

This unlikely set-up is really just a springboard for road movie hi-jinks, gags about dysfunctional families and genitalia references. The film indulges plenty of crass humour including a deformed testicle gag that’s suspiciously reminiscent of the infamous “frank and beans” sequence in There’s Something about Mary but unlike say, Movie 43 it’s rarely obnoxious or insulting and is often laugh-out-loud funny.  The only genuinely distasteful aspect of this film is its stereotyping of Mexican people as either peasants or criminals.  Some might also feel the stripping sequence in which an impressively toned Jen proves her pole dancing credentials to a drug dealer, is completely gratuitous.

With his casual misanthropy and grinning confidence, Sudeikis is like a more obscene Chevy Chase in this film.  His character’s constant stream of insults and selfish and reckless behaviour could have been obnoxious but Sudeikis manages to make David oddly likeable.  As she did in Horrible Bosses, Jennifer Aniston takes another small step away from her squeaky clean rom-com image and shows that, with some decent material, she can be genuinely funny. Let’s hope, though, that she hops off the comedy cash cow and take a risk with some serious dramatic roles in the future. The stand out, though, is Wil Poulter as the wonderfully dorky Kenny.  He’s perfectly in tune with the gleeful stupidity of the film’s weirdest and most obscene gags but also shows some dramatic flair in the more sensitive scenes.  As his fake sibling, Emma Roberts makes the most of a clichéd role as a contemptuous, facially-pierced, panda-eyed teen.

The film also has some fine supporting performances with Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn a wonderfully dorky but perverse couple determined to snare Sudeikis and Aniston in their sex games.  Mark Young is also hilarious as a repulsive white trash kid named Scottie P while Ed Helms adds a slightly surreal touch as a Bond villain-like crime boss who has an aquarium lair complete with Killer Whale.

Although the middle portion of the film sags as the foursome amble along in their gargantuan mobile home and the film occasionally bows to the saccharine Hollywood family values edict, it never completely loses its edge.

The internal logic of We’re the Millers would not stand up to rigorous analysis and the film certainly doesn’t challenge The Producers or This Is Spinal Tap for classic comedy status but in its juvenile way its consistently amusing.

Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): Rawson Marshall Thurber.

Release date: 15th Aug 2013

Running time: 110 mins.

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