We’re the Millers (Warner Bros., R)

Were-the-Millers 75Sudeikis and Co. save the day by injecting humor into nearly every moment of the movie with their quick wit and hilarious performances.

Were-the-Millers 500

Most actors will tell you that, when it’s done right, comedy is just as hard if not harder than drama. While the actors who star in We’re the Millers aren’t known for their dramatic performances, it’s clear they are working just as hard as their peers who will populate the year-end Oscar race. Led by Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis, the foursome at the center of We’re the Millers deliver one of the tightest and most effective comedy ensembles of the year.

At the center of the story is David Clark (Sudeikis), a small-time pot dealer in Denver who, despite being in his late 30s, has no plans for daddy or husband duty. David is put in an uncomfortable position when he gets robbed and his stash and cash are stolen. His boss/supplier, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms), says he’ll clear David’s debts if he just goes down to Mexico to pick up a little pot. David doesn’t have much of a choice, so he begins scheming about how to get across the border without being stopped.

In a stroke of genius, David decides that posing as part of a wholesome American family would be the perfect disguise. He doesn’t have a wholesome family, so he creates one with the misfits who have come to populate his life. His tough-as-nails stripper neighbor, Rose (Jennifer Aniston), agrees to play his wife; the awkward teenager who lives below him, Kenny (Will Poulter), plays his son; and a “street urchin” named Casey (Emma Roberts) reluctantly joins the ragtag family as David’s daughter. Packed into a rented RV, the happy “family” sets off on the road on their way to becoming international drug smugglers with approximately zero chance of anything going horribly wrong.

Finally given the chance to showcase the full range of his comedic talents, Sudeikis shines from beginning to end. His skills as the understated straight man have been proven through his tenure on SNL as well as his small roles on projects like 30 Rock. In 2011’s Horrible Bosses Sudeikis was given a little more room to grow, but that film was most noteworthy for the outstanding performances from the actors who played the horrible bosses. In We’re the Millers, though, Sudeikis runs the gamut from Albert Brooks’ sad sack persona to Steve Martin’s manic outbursts. The movie will result in widespread repeat viewings thanks in large part to Sudeikis’ work.

After her terrific performance in Horrible Bosses, Aniston once again proves she’s more than a pretty face. Rarely has America’s once-sweetheart been allowed to be so beautifully coarse and vulgar. Aniston pulls it off effortlessly as if the years of brainless romantic comedies were just a ruse to hide her much darker nature. Also shedding her past is Roberts, who has fully divorced herself from her Nancy Drew days and is proving to be a dominating force in her own right. Her I-hate-everything-and-everyone demeanor is the perfect counterpart to Poulter’s role as the dorky and sexually inexperienced Kenny. Most audiences will be introduced to Poulter for the first time in this movie, and he makes one hell of a first impression. Kenny is the definition of innocent, but Poulter never confuses his innocence or sincerity with stupidity; that is no easy feat. In a movie filled with established comedy giants (including small appearances by Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, and Luis Guzman), Poulter is the funniest person in nearly every scene.

Director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who wrote and directed Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, has crafted a very endearing and incredibly funny movie by playing to its strengths (the cast) and not pretending its weaknesses aren’t weaknesses (the plot). Instead of bloating the story up into a convoluted mess, Thurber keeps it simple and allows the movie’s humor to carry the audience to the end. We’re the Millers could have collapsed into slapstick bandaging a pathetic cat-and-mouse chase movie, but Thurber does well to keep the silliness to a minimum.

If not for its tremendous cast, We’re the Millers could have been quite painful. Sudeikis and Co. save the day by injecting humor into nearly every moment of the movie with their quick wit and hilarious performances. | Matthew Newlin

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