Drug dealer David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) has a tough choice to make after getting robbed by local teens and coming up short on payment to his supplier. Either David can make a road trip to Mexico to bring back “a smidge and a half” of marijuana and risk getting caught by the Border Patrol, or he can have his legs broken. He decides to put together an ersatz family with his poverty-stricken stripper neighbor Rose (Jennifer Aniston), local homeless teen Casey (Emma Roberts), and hopelessly naive Kenny (Will Poulter). Will they learn to come together as a family before the Mexican cartel tracks them down and kills them?

Some mild spoilers below.

We’re the Millers doesn’t have a lot of surprises, but it does have more than a few laughs.  One of the surprises is the amount of heart that goes into the film, in the same sort of way that Judd Apatow films like The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up tend to sneak up on audiences.  My friend Phelim McAleer commented on it this week:

Without giving too much away, Phelim has a point. The family act that gets off to a rocky start in the beginning winds up becoming more of a reality later in the adventure, especially when danger seems to come from every direction.  Even more to Phelim’s point, the “family” begins to adopt a more conservative ethos the more time they spend pretending to relate to one another, and it turns out to be more than show — to their own surprise.  Shakespeare once wrote in Hamlet, “Assume a virtue, if you have it not,” as a prescription to absorb the virtue through habit of repetition.  The Millers end up doing this despite themselves, and despite their original mission.

Mostly, though, the film is predictable but funny enough to keep audiences engaged.  Sudeikis and Aniston provide more character development than laughs, but Poulter and Roberts do more as their “kids,” especially Poulter, who is hilariously square and a perfect foil for both the jokes and the transformation of the Millers.  Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn play a couple who keeps getting in the way of the Millers on their trip, whose daughter (perfectly cast Molly Quinn) is an obvious match for Poulter.  The rest of the cast is less remarkable, except for Matthew Willig as a fright-inducing cartel enforcer.

On the 5-point Hot Air scale, I give this a 4 for anyone truly seeking a laugh at the box office this summer. For everyone else, it’s at least a solid 3:

  • 5 – Full price ticket
  • 4 – Matinee only
  • 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
  • 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

We’re the Millers is rated R for “crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity.” For those readers who wonder, that last part doesn’t refer to Aniston, although she does do a couple of bump-and-grind sequences in the film.  It actually refers to Poulter, and it’s, er … not what you think.  Just don’t take a swig of soda when that scene occurs.  We’re the Millers is clearly not for children or teens, nor for those who are offended at drug references, even though the film ends up being somewhat anti-drug in the end.

Update: Another friend of mine, Steven Greydanus, strenuously objects:

Stephen also has a point, but I think he’s taking the farcical setups too seriously, and downplaying the underlying theme. However, it’s good to have his point of view when deciding whether to spend any cash on the film.