‘We’re the Millers’ is a soothingly retro gross-out weed comedy

Jason Sudeikis gets a manly ear tickle from Nick Offerman in "We're the Millers." Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Jason Sudeikis gets a manly ear tickle from Nick Offerman in “We’re the Millers.”
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

‘We’re the Millers’
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston
Grade: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

Marijuana slows down the reflexes, which is why it’s rarely ideal for a genre as visceral as comedy. Most of the superior pot films — “The Big Lebowski,” “Smiley Face” — tend to be not about weed, but its effects on characters trying to navigate heavy situations in a state of foggy inebriation. “We’re the Millers” is likely the highest profile “weed comedy” ever made — a major summer release with (slightly) bankable stars and the now requisite supporting roster of ad-libbing ringers. But it’s the smart kind. No one even gets high in the film, although the setup is basically the same as Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke.”

Jason Sudeikis plays David, an aging, low-rent drug dealer forced to smuggle rather a significant amount of herb across the border. He decides to play it safe: To better throw the man off his scent, he’ll get a bland haircut, adopt a less miserable mien and round up some local low-lifes — including a surly stripper (Jennifer Aniston) and a street kid (Emma Roberts) — and pose as a Winnebago-wielding suburban family from somewhere Midwest. Getting the haul out of Mexico proves easy, but they run afoul of both an angry cartel and, perhaps more burdensome, an actual Winnebago-wielding suburban family, populated by Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn. 

The script for “We’re the Millers” has been in development hell since the mid-Aughts, which is probably why it actually has a shape, as well as a parade of gross-out gags. Still, scenes where these pros are just riffing — especially Hahn, who as in “Step Brothers” throws herself into her oversized character with wild abandon — are preferable to set pieces where, say, a poisonous spider bite enlarges the testicles of the nice guy virgin “son” (“Son of Rambow”’s ace Will Poulter). But even these sequences have a pleasing shape, thanks to the performers and director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who, as in “Dodgeball,” doesn’t know how to make a comedy pretty but does know how to pace jokes, gags and sequences. (A game of Pictionary gone awry smartly withholds one major element for a decent punchline.)

This is a retro Farrelly Brothers clone, right down to the eventual appearance of “heart.” (Spoiler: Our bickering heroes learn to become a makeshift family.) But now that not even the Farrelly Brothers are making Farrelly Brothers movies anymore, one that gets the job done, and even possesses a winningly pissy turn from the talented but often wasted Sudeikis, is worthy of a glove clap.


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