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MOVIE REVIEW: Aniston great, Sudeikis struggles as leading man "We're the Millers"

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From left, Jason Sudeikis, Kathryn Hahn, Jennifer Aniston and Nick Offerman star in "We're the Millers." (Photo: New Line)

We’re the Millers

(R)

2 and a half stars out of four stars

We’re just two weeks into August and there have already been more worthy titles released in that short time than May, June and July combined (and all at a much lower per picture cost). Considering what we usually get in August, that’s saying a lot. On the other hand, compared to the general slop we’ve been served up over the last three months, watching grass grow would often be preferable.

Far better than initially expected, “We’re the Millers” might be the first of its kind ever made: a family stoner flick. In actuality, no one ever gets high but there’s more weed in sight than the total lifetime intake of Cheech, Chong, Willie Nelson and Woody Harrelson.

It’s also not a family film by a long shot. Pinching a great deal from the Farrelly brothers and Seth Rogen, director Rawson Marshall Thurber (“Dodgeball”) and his committee of screenwriters include every pop-culture herb reference and scads of bodily-function sight gags on their way to making the movie far more vulgar than it needs to be which results in something resembling spaghetti. If you hurl more than you need to at the wall, a good amount of it will stick. With little effort and a bit of toning down, it could have made for a great risqué date flick.

The premise is simple and to the point. David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) is a middleman pot dealer residing in Denver who has an uncomplicated life until he makes the mistake of coming to the aid of a damsel in distress. That would be Casey (Emma Roberts), a homeless urchin David rescues but in the process he loses his entire stash and beaucoup cash, $40,000 of which he owes to the slimy kingpin Brad (Ed Helms).

Knowing he has David in an untenable position, Brad makes him an offer: If he goes to Mexico and brings back a “smidge” of ganja, he’ll waive the debt owed and throw in a bonus. The problem is that David — shaggy and unshaven — looks like a drug dealer. He concludes that by nerding up his appearance, drafting Casey and his geeky teen neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter) to play his kids, he’ll be less conspicuous. The final touch comes with the inclusion of broke stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston) as the wife/mother who is the oil to David’s water.

With a mobile home the size of a small battleship provided by Brad, the newly christened “Millers” hit the road with all of the requisite whacky hijnks, close-calls, bickering, sniping, awkward intimacy and stock characters you might expect from such a mid-grade production.

In all fairness, some of it is hilariously funny. Better at being a second banana than leading man, Sudeikis compensates by delivering his lines with a rapid-fire deadpan not unlike that of Jason Bateman. So good is Sudeikis at playing the self-absorbed drug-dealer concerned only with his own survival that he sometimes repels the audience.

Also not going for yucks but getting them at every turn is Aniston, who has never shown such innate crack comic timing — or had such a potty mouth. This will come as quite a shock to her dedicated, PG-rated “Friends” fans, not used to seeing their beloved Rachel run such a ribald blue streak. They also might be surprised at how proficient she is at dancing like, well … a stripper.

In one scene Aniston — pulling a Jennifer Beals in “Flashdance” — scorches the screen before dousing herself and her barely there lingerie under a shower while grinding to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” It’s clear that the many hours Aniston spent training and getting in shape for her “spotlight” dance more than yielded high dividends. For some this scene alone will be worth the price of admission and should all but guarantee healthy home video sales.

Given the limitations the script affords their characters, Roberts and Poulter each fair reasonably well. As you might expect, Helms brings something new to what is usually a cut-and-dry villain type, but the same cannot be said for his Mexican counterparts who all fit squarely into uncomfortable, too-serious thugs-with-guns stereotypes.

Clocking in at nearly two hours, the movie overstays its welcome by at least 15 minutes, if not more. No comedy needs to be this long and the filmmakers do themselves and the audience a huge disservice by stretching it out so long. If they had turned in a 90-minute final cut, “We’re the Millers” could’ve been a true contender. If you go, be sure to stick around for the sidesplitting final credit outtake/blooper reel. (New Line)