August is traditionally a bit of a dumping ground for movies that Hollywood isn't sure how to market or doesn't expect much from. In terms of sheer quality, Rawson Marshall Thurber's We're the Millers, a late-summer release from New Line, deserved to open Memorial Day weekend.
Jason Sudeikis stars as David, a low-level pot dealer who doesn't have a care or worry in the world -- no family, no responsibilities, no consequences -- until he's robbed by three guys after trying to stop them from mugging homeless teenager Casey (Emma Roberts) and his downstairs neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter), an innocent teen with a neglectful mom. After the trio swipe his cash and his pot, David's supplier Brad (Ed Helms) offers to wipe his debt away if he brings back a shipment of marijuana from Mexico.
David has no choice but to agree, and soon figures out the disguise he needs to make it across the border without arousing suspicion -- a family. He hires Kenny, Casey, and Rose (Jennifer Aniston), a neighbor who works as a stripper, to play his brood. While the plan gets them into Mexico, their journey back grows unexpectedly complex when the smidge and a half promised by Brad turns out to be millions of dollars in weed. As they struggle together, the four bickering losers start to bond with one another, and soon it looks like this fake family may turn into a real one.
Outside of the high-concept premise, the plot of We're the Millers is less important than the cast, their interactions, and the ceaselessly amusing predicaments they find themselves in throughout the film -- this is the most consistently funny Hollywood comedy of the 2013 summer season. The laughs come rapid-fire, with Sudeikis carrying the heaviest load; many of his lines feel improvised, and in this case that isn't a bad thing. Aniston has been dipping her toes in this kind of material more and more recently (Wanderlust, Horrible Bosses), but playing Rose allows her to show off her killer bod and be a thoroughly plausible mother. She's rarely been this appealing on the big screen. Emma Roberts does teen rebellion with a credibly dismissive sneer and a perpetually loaded middle finger, and Poulter steals every scene with his earnest but goofy wide-eyed expressions.
Throw in fantastic supporting performances by Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as a pleasant Midwestern couple the Millers bump into during their travels, Ken Marino as a sleazy strip-club owner, and Luis Guzman as a corrupt Mexican cop, and you start to appreciate how many different ways the people in this film get you to laugh.
Thurber, who almost a decade earlier made Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story -- another comic gem that never let up on the funny -- isn't just a good comedy director, he's a good director period. Notice how efficiently he handles the sequence in which David is grabbed on the street by Brad's goons: A few quick cuts let us know what has happened, and he still squeezes in a few comic insults obviously added after the fact by Sudeikis. In addition, Thurber injects the film with just enough heart so the laughs don't come from a cynical place -- he likes these characters and these performances, and that goodwill shines through even when the movie goes to its edgiest material.
We're the Millers has heart, a decently structured story, and a very game cast, but what you'll remember is giggling, belly laughing, and smiling the entire time. How funny is it? So funny that the obligatory end-credits blooper reel has bigger, better, and smarter laughs than many feature-length comedies.