News Column

'We're the Millers' review: Little things add up to big laughs

August 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 06--It's the little things that make a difference in "We're the Millers."

A standard comedy of outrageousness, "We're the Millers" is about four virtual strangers -- led by Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston -- who pose as a wholesome, all-American family in an attempt to smuggle a ton of dope into the U.S. in a recreational vehicle. A lot of standard developments follow: an awkward encounter with other tourists, a run-in with violent criminals, a bug bite that results in a humiliating injury to someone's (prosthetic) genitalia, a toned Hollywood star doing a striptease with the aid of a body double and a feud that morphs into affection.

Luckily, the standard jokes in "We're the Millers" build in a way that is evidence of more care than most comedies of this ilk. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber pulled off something similar in "Dodgeball" (where, it should be said, he started out with a sharper script than "Millers" has). Many of the gags in "Millers" are followed by afterjokes, comic chasers that extend the laughs. There is, for instance, a scene in which the "son" gets passionate kissing lessons from his "sister" and "mom," which is uncomfortably amusing but which becomes hilarious when we realize they're doing this in full view of someone who thinks they're all really related.

One other little thing that pays off big in "Millers"? Supporting performances by very funny people. Kathryn Hahn, who has played wildly different roles on TV's "Parks and Recreation" and in movies such as "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," is some kind of comic genius. Here, she lends her talents to the role of a naive Midwestern tourist ("I own a," she says in a sexual confession, before shifting to a whisper, "vibrator") whose mind is blown by the drug-smuggling "family." Nick Offerman, Thomas Lennon and Luis Guzman also all contribute tiny comic gems.

From the extent to which I'm focusing on the little things in "We're the Millers," it's probably obvious that the big

picture is nothing special. You've seen this sort of road-trip-of-misadventures comedy before, I bet, but what distinguishes "We're the Millers" is that those little things add up to some mighty big laughs.

"WE'RE THE MILLERS"

Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston

Rated: R for very strong language, lots of drugs and partial (fake) nudity

Should you go? Sure. In this comedy-light summer of movies, it's a good option. ***

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(c)2013 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

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