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"WE'RE THE MILLERS"
(2013) (Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A small-time pot dealer recruits a stripper and two teens to pretend to be his family so that he can smuggle a huge shipment of pot from Mexico into the U.S.
PLOT:
David Clark (JASON SUDEIKIS) is a low-level pot dealer whose clientele are everyday people living near him in Denver. When he helps a teenager who lives in his apartment building, Kenny Rossmore (WILL POULTER), save a runaway teen, Casey Mathis (EMMA ROBERTS), from some thugs trying to rob her, he ends up losing both his pot and the money he made from that. All of which means he now owes his pot distributor, Brad Gurdlinger (ED HELMS), $43,000 and must agree to that man's new demand -- to transport some marijuana from Mexico into the U.S. The upside is doing so will not only get him off the hook with the money he owes, but will also earn him an extra $100,000.

The downside is doing so could land him in jail for a long time. When he sees a lost tourist family in their RV -- Don Fitzgerald (NICK OFFERMAN), his wife Edie (KATHRYN HAHN), and their teenage daughter Melissa (MOLLY QUINN) -- getting help from a local cop, he comes up with an idea. And that is that he can clean himself up to look like a family man and hire both Kenny and Casey to play his teenage kids. For their fake mother, he chooses his neighbor, Rose O'Reilly (JENNIFER ANISTON), a stripper who agrees only because she's recently quit and has been evicted from her place.

The "Millers" then fly down to the border, rent an RV and pick up the shipment that turns out to be enormous and fills every nook and cranny of their rental vehicle. Little do they realize, however, that some other suburban looking type was supposed to pick up the drugs. All of which means they must contend with the drug lord Pablo Chacon (TOMER SISLEY) and his hulking henchman, One-Eye (MATTHEW WILLIG), coming after them, all while they must also deal with the Fitzgerald family who become their unexpected and unwelcome travel companions as the Millers try to make their way back to Denver.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
With national polls showing that public support for the legalization of marijuana growing each time they're taken, and as additional states keep approving the medical use of cannabis (and a few making it legal for casual use), it seems like it's only a matter of time before the federal government does the same and decriminalizes its use. While that will have all sorts of political, social and even economic repercussions, the question no one seems willing to ask is whether that will cause the drug comedy genre to go the way of the dodo.

After all, part of the reason for the moderate success of film such as the "Cheech & Chong" and "Harold & Kumar" film series is that the title characters are partaking in criminal and, natch, drug-induced behavior that's played for laughs. That allows non-users to feel like they're now operating with the "in" crowd, while users enjoy seeing those of their own ilk flaunting such illegal behavior by enjoying their favorite pastime.

If it suddenly becomes commonplace and legal, the "fun" of such films could very well disappear, while on-screen portrayals of being stoned could end up going the route of the title character in "Arthur 2," what with the shift in public perception of such drunken behavior after accepting it the first time Dudley Moore played that character.

And if comedies featuring pot use go away, so will those regarding dealing and/or smuggling weed in America. Granted, there aren't a tremendous amount of comedies featuring smuggling (that's usually the domain of dramas). Nevertheless, the powers that be might want to hurry if they plan on making "Return of the Millers," "The Millers Strike Back" or more simply, "We're the Millers 2."

Yes, you guessed correctly, that would be the sequel to "We're the Millers," a new R-rated comedy that very well could be something of a mini hit if the reaction of our preview audience is any indication. It's the story of a small-time pot dealer (Jason Sudeikis) who ends up with no option but to transport a large amount of weed from Mexico into the U.S. for his boss (Ed Helms).

Believing it's his only likely chance of succeeding, he ends up talking his neighbor stripper (Jennifer Aniston), dorky teenage neighbor (Will Poulter) and teen runaway (Emma Roberts) into playing his family. Naturally, hijinks will ensue in this modified road comedy, as well as the fake family starting to behave and feel like the real thing.

There's plenty of potential in them thar weeds, so to speak, but the quartet of screenwriters -- Bob Fisher & Steve Faber and Sean Anders & John Morris -- don't end up getting too clever or imaginative with the material. With no drug use actually occurring (and thus the sort of stoned comedy material not being available), the writers introduce a miffed drug lord (Tomer Sisley) and his hulking henchman (Matthew Willig) for a little suspense, while a seemingly nerdy family (Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as the parents, Molly Quinn as their teen daughter) are thrown in to provide some additional complications as well as bits of naughty behavior.

None of which will surprise viewers who've seen more than a handful of comedies, and some of the material is telegraphed so much that it comes as no surprise what unfolds (including an introduction to swinging between the two main couples that had many in our audience howling, but seemed too obvious and not clever enough for yours truly). And there's little doubt that a scene featuring a tarantula crawling up a teen's shorts will result in an exaggerated genitalia view that would make the Farrelly Brothers ("There's Something About Mary") proud.

That said, there are some genuinely laugh aloud moments scattered amongst the barrage of lame jokes and adult humor, but not enough to elevate this offering into any sort of recommended status. The performances are mediocre at best, with the four leads hamstrung by their initial stereotypes for most of the film. Yes, we get the joke that they sort of come across as family even when they hate each other and are then supposed to start feeling for them when they show they truly care (another far too predictable development).

Working from his quartet's script, director Rawson Marshall Thurber ("Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story") seems uncertain whether he should really go down the black comedy route, keep it light and goofy, or really go for outrageousness. That tepidness keeps the film somewhat off-kilter for its nearly two-hour runtime and, when coupled with the predictable material, prevents the film from hitting comic nirvana more often. In the end, it nearly feels like a pilot for some upcoming cable sitcom where such naughtiness can continue without worries regarding what's left of the network censors.

I have no idea if that's remotely in the works, or if a sequel is indeed lined up. Either way, "We're the Millers" could very well be one of the last drug smuggling comedies to hit the screen should legalization be anywhere on the horizon. But that certainly doesn't mean you should rush out to see it just in case. Sporadically funny but not much more, the film rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed August 5, 2013 / Posted August 7, 2013


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