Craig's First Take: "We're the Millers"

Photo Credit: Photo by Michael Tackett – © (c) 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc

If you’re going to do a movie based on a sitcom premise, you could do worse than to hire two writers from “Married with Children”. It’s easy to see their stamp on “We’re the Millers”, which I thought might have been better titled as “National Lampoons Breaking Bad Vacation” (who else is excited for Sunday?). The other two writers (Mr. Popper’s Penguins)? Not so much.

Yes, four screenwriters-ooooh! And yes even though Jennifer Aniston has gotten into stripper shape for this thing, it’s still a comedy starring Jennifer Aniston-ooooh! But this is why we watch the film. “We’re the Millers” is a surprise, a comedy that strikes a really good balance between irreverent laughs and sentimental family bonding, even if the family in question is not exactly a family.

David (Jason Sudeikis) is a pushing-40 weed dealer with no wife, kid or responsibility, which even strikes him as a bit sad. Rose (Aniston) is his neighbor, a smarter-than-your-average stripper working with bimbos who see getting to have sex with the customers as “good news.” There’s also Kenny (William Poulter), a so nice as to be dopey teenager with an absentee mom and a runaway named Casey (Emma Roberts).

These people could all use some cash and so when David loses a package and has to find some way to pay back his supplier (Ed Helms), all four wind up posing as a family in order to smuggle a huge shipment of weed back into the states from Mexico. So they all pack up the RV and pretend their asses off that this is for real.

There are a few funny gags with a homosexual traffic cop and some angry drug dealers after the Millers, crude language, even cruder sight gags (a spider bites a not so nice place) and Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation”) and Kathryn Hahn are an added bonus as two annoyingly friendly RV-ers/swingers. But much like “Married with Children”, this movie seems very good at coming up with jokes based on character-types in a family. Sudeikis is the loving but suffocated family man, Aniston is there to needle him or be a voice of reason, Poulter the dorky son, and Roberts the independent-minded daughter with an attitude problem. It gets laughs (from squabbles, but still funny), but more so, it knows how to get these people to click as a whole without ever feeling forced either comedically or when it’s being heartfelt.

Sudeikis gets the best laughs and nails them. This is the kind of role Vince Vaughn could have killed before he decided to become all PG-13 on us. Aniston compliments him well, especially during a scene where the two seemingly make-up how they met. Poulter is a find as this virginal, inexperienced kid. A kissing lesson he gets from Roberts and Aniston is hilarious. And Roberts is becoming a really gifted comic performer, showing the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree from aunt Julia.

“Millers” was directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Remember him? Ok, remember “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”? That was him and he’s been pretty quiet since. Not sure why. There are a few half-formed bits here (Dave and Rose take part in a foursome), others that just fall flat and the ending is sentimental beyond all good sense but Thurber seems to know how to make enjoyable, rootable comedies. “Millers” proves far better than expected.