Klavan On The Culture

Dysfunctional Family Fun With "We're The Millers"

We’re The Millers is a subtle, delicate, Noel Coward-like wit-fest that hides its piercing intelligence behind a glittering sheen of sophisticated humor. Oh, all right, I’m joking. It’s yet another piece of absurdly raunchy silliness — but not bad for all that. And pretty &^%$#@* funny at times.

Jason Sudeikis plays a drug dealer who gets played into smuggling a shipment of dope out of Mexico. To do that, he enlists three other outcasts to play his clean-cut all-American family in the hopes they’ll help him bluff his way past the border guards. Stripper Jennifer Aniston becomes his wife. Street thief Emma Roberts becomes his daughter. And weirdo latchkey kid Will Poulter becomes his son. Hilarity ensues and they all learn an important lesson about something or other.

Two things lift this above the usual only-supposed-to-be-funny raunch comedy like, say, Bridesmaids. One is the fact that Sudeikis and Aniston are both genuinely talented comic actors. This is different than a lot of today’s comedy stars who simply represent a hip, funny attitude and are therefore supposed to be hip and funny but really aren’t. Sudeikis and Aniston know how to create characters with an eye toward their absurdity. They did it well in Horrible Bosses and they do it well here.

The other thing that raises this above the average is its attitude toward its subject, which is family. From the first scene, Sudeikis’s admittedly despicable and empty existence as a pot peddler is contrasted with the supposed hell on earth of being a husband and father. When Sudeikis goes to get a new haircut to make him look like a “real life Ned Flanders,” he tells the barber, “Give me something that says, ‘I get up every morning at 5:30 and commute for an hour and a half to some bull**** job where my j**-off boss expects me to kiss his b***s all day just so I can afford to keep my ungrateful, screaming kids decked out in Dora the explorer s*** and my wife up to her fat ass in self-help videos until the day I get up the courage to put a shotgun in my mouth.'” The family man sitting in the waiting chair behind him points to his own haircut and says, “Right here.”

What’s funny and kind of original is that the movie never loses that hard-edged attitude toward family life — and yet still proceeds to make the case for what you might call family values. As the four drug smugglers fall into typical negative family behaviors, their arguing, lying, manipulating and smothering are all shown to be nourishing aspects of love. Family may be hell, the movie seems to be saying, but it still lifts you out of selfishness and mock-hip despair.

That’s a pretty interesting point of view (though not mine) and it keeps the movie from going where you think it’s going to go. It’s cute and touching and I liked it. Obviously, you’ll need asbestos ears and a pristine, raunch-impenetrable soul like mine.

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