We’re the Millers is one of the summer’s late surprises, a strong comedy that mixes National Lampoon’s Vacation with any stoner comedy from the last ten years. It’s not an original film in terms of its conception: here’s a simple road trip that’s put together by a middle-aged loser (Jason Sudeikis) who deals weed as his main source of income. After he’s robbed and runs into a “homeless” girl (Emma Roberts) and a dweeb (Will Poulter) that lives in his apartment complex, his boss (Ed Helms) asks him to pick up a smidge of pot from Mexico. Bring it back in time, and he’ll pay $100,000. That’ll more than make up for his debt, but there’s one key problem: he looks like a stoner and wouldn’t make it past border patrol. So he teams up with the two kids and a woman he loves who’s also a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as a tourist family.
What I find refreshing about the film is its confidence in its genre clichés. It accepts the fate it has with such a simplistic, vague plot and uses it to explore characters rather well and define laughs within character identities. Most films simply go for gags, which this one certainly has an abundance of: the spider bite that the previews seem to be hinting at certainly shows us everything, pushing the R-rating quite a bit, but it’s also pretty damn funny. Sudeikis’s character is generally unlikable for most of the film, a selfish guy who’s only using these people; for all three of the other characters, though, they’re finding an acceptance of being a family that they long for. Hell, even these female characters are pretty damn strong and independent, with moments to shine.
This isn’t a remarkable comedy. I’m not going to act like it is. The film’s too long, running about 110 minutes when its last half hour could be condensed to a few minutes. But that doesn’t mean the film isn’t consistently funny, or that its sappiness even has a bit of an impact on a viewer. When it’s repeated constantly, it does lose its effect, but it’s still there. As a critic, I’m told that I shouldn’t like comedies that could be viewed as lazy or ones that make the paths too easy for these characters. Yet critics who are bashing this film amaze me, because this isn’t terrible. In fact, the movie has a “Fuck it!” attitude that I can’t help but find a bit charming. We’ve seen bad comedies this year; at least, I have. And this certainly isn’t one of them. It’s actually good.
Grade: ★★★½ (out of 5)