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Pot-fuelled comedy a real hoot when dealing in quality stuff

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From left, Sudeikis, Aniston, Poulter and Roberts try to talk their way out of trouble in Mexico.

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From left, Sudeikis, Aniston, Poulter and Roberts try to talk their way out of trouble in Mexico.

THE story of a drug dealer who cobbles together a jerry-rigged family to smuggle pot out of Mexico, We're the Millers is a droll variation on the snobs-vs.-slobs comedy formula.

Call it straights-vs.-reprobates.

Chief among the miscreants is David Clark (Jason Sudeikis), a street-level pot dealer who has been selling dope since college, a manifestation of a lack of ambition that could prove fatal. When he is robbed of his stash and his cash, he gets motivated forcefully by Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms), the square-but-deadly drug lord to whom he owes money. Brad (who has a new killer whale in his aquarium) suggests Dave will erase his debt by travelling south of the border to transport "a smidge" of marijuana over the border.

Forced to come up with a plan, Dave drafts a newly jobless stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his wife, and subsequently enlists his geeky, neglected teen neighbour Kenny (Will Poulter) to be his teenage son and sardonic homeless waif Casey (Emma Roberts) to be his faux daughter.

When the four dress up in what could best be described as "suburban drag," they do indeed look the part of a straitlaced family bound for Mexico. It's the journey back that proves to be hazardous, especially after Dave learns he has actually been set up to steal the (huge) pot shipment from vengeful Mexican drug runner Pablo Chacon (Tomer Sisley), and that the square patriarch (Nick Offerman) who has befriended him on the road is, in fact, a vacationing DEA agent.

This could easily have been ditch-grade in the wrong hands, but director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) deals in quality stuff with his assembled cast. Sudeikis's whole comic shtick is playing the subversive disguised as a clean-cut everyman. Aniston likewise adds to the mid-career blossoming she has experienced following the sexually rapacious dentist she played in Horrible Bosses, now adding lap-dancer to the good-girl persona she has been systematically destroying since Friends. (I'd say this role makes it east to forget Aniston's participation in Friends, but the movie doesn't let us. You'll see.)

The script has four credited screenwriters and apparently none of them are inclined to let this movie proceed without a family-positive acknowledgement. Hence, the family unit, subject as it is to some scurrilous lampooning, is also presented as a desirable state, worthy of the work, the inconvenience and the sacrifice.

Fortunately, it's not preachy about it. If this movie was a magazine subscriber, it would definitely abstain from Focus on the Family in favour of High Times.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2013 C7

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