The R-rated comedy gets a little harder with We’re the Millers, pun intended. Among other things, it features an 18-year-old’s swollen, grapefruit-sized testicle on prominent display not once, not twice, but three times. (A pesky tarantula bite causes the gonad’s temporary elephantiasis.) Not since another 18-year-old boinked an apple pie has a movie played teenage male anatomy for such raunchy laughs. It’s only a matter of time until someone crosses the Rubicon with a pants-down, full-on (well, maybe only half-mast) boner that takes good-natured vulgarity to the next graphic level. The question is: Will anyone be shocked? At this rate, it’s unlikely. But if We’re the Millers is any indication, rest assured it will be outrageously funny in the right hands, so to speak.
With its tongue firmly in cheek – as well as in someone’s mouth most of the time – We’re the Millers celebrates family values in a most nontraditional way. It exaggerates the contempt that familiarity can breed between spouses and siblings – the middle finger is the typical means of communication for the members of the faux Miller clan – while depicting the affection and loyalty that develops from the same intimacy. In its own twisted way, it’s a comedic take on the love/hate dynamic that Eugene O’Neill and Edward Albee mined so powerfully in their best work. If you’ve seen the movie’s trailer, you know the storyline. A small-time Denver drug dealer (Sudeikis), who’s deeply in debt to his source, recruits a stripper (Aniston), a geek (Poulter), and a runaway (Roberts) to pose as his wife and kids as part of a plan to smuggle a huge shipment of marijuana from Mexico to the States. His thinking? No one will suspect the gee-willikers foursome of any criminal activity as they cross the international border in a mammoth recreational vehicle packed with enough pot to impress even Willie Nelson. While its plot points are pedestrian at best, the genius – at least, the definite charm – of We’re the Millers is its notion of family as something beyond a simple blood connection, particularly when exigent circumstances create the ties that bind.
With the exception of Roberts, who blends into the background of every scene in which she appears, the cast comprising the Millers keeps this sweetly crude comedy afloat. Poulter’s spot-on performance as the virginal Kenny gives the movie its naive heart, though you can’t discount the comedic chops this British newcomer demonstrates. (His rendition of TLC’s Nineties hip-hop hit “Waterfalls” will knock your socks off.) Aniston once again proves why she’s the Friend with the most staying power, performing a mean striptease in a to-die-for body while conveying a subtle maternal instinct and vulnerability along the way. But it’s recently departed SNL alum Sudeikis who impresses the most. He’s a rare bird: a no-holds-barred comedian who can also play a real person. In the scene in which he pleads forgiveness for his paternal and husbandly transgressions, Sudeikis’ near-delirious rambling is believably human. Based on his performance in We’re the Millers, Saturday night’s loss may be American film comedy’s gain.