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Originally published Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 11:20 AM

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‘The Millers’: A pretend family on a road trip with too many detours

“We’re the Millers” is right down the middle, sometimes crude to be crude, sometimes finding humor in the crude world we live in. Sometimes it’s labored, sometimes it’s funny.

San Francisco Chronicle

Movie review 2 stars

‘We’re the Millers,’ with Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts and Will Poulter. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. 110 minutes. Rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material.

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Comedies are getting more and more vulgar, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Fifteen years ago, just about every comedy was rated PG-13, and anything to do with families ended on some fake sentimental uplift straight out of an old TV sitcom.

New comedies are a relief from that, but when they’re vulgar for the sake of vulgar, that’s just another form of dishonesty,

“We’re the Millers” is right down the middle, sometimes crude to be crude, sometimes finding humor in the crude world we live in. Sometimes it’s labored, sometimes it’s funny.

Still, the setup has something: Jason Sudeikis is David, a small-time drug dealer who is forced to go to Mexico to pick up several tons of marijuana and drive it across the border.

Because a lone, scruffy guy crossing the border is more likely to get stopped than a wholesome American family, he recruits a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his wife and hires a runaway (Emma Roberts) and a neighbor (Will Poulter) to pose as their kids for the drug run.

That adventure and its aftermath make up “We’re the Millers,” and along the way, we find the usual personality clashes and gunplay — yes, gunplay — it’s a comedy about drug smuggling, after all.

A big weakness of the movie is that its characters are constantly doing things against their own interests. Comedies don’t need to be believable, but they do need to be logical.

Just one example of many: At one point, with enough drugs in their RV to send them up the river for decades, Rose (Aniston) and David (Sudeikis) decide to rob a DEA officer. Why would they do something so incredibly insane? Because, as it turns out, there’s a comic bit at the end of that chain that someone wanted to cram in. It’s that kind of thing, again and again: Awkwardness, character distortion and strain followed by almost enough laughs as to be worth it.

Playing a stripper is outside Aniston’s usual zone, allowing her to be a little more coarse than usual. That’s fine, and she makes the most of it, though the stripping scenes aren’t flattering.

As befitting a movie written by a committee, “We’re the Millers” is too long, with everyone’s bits included. But the cast carries it a long way. Sudeikis is appealing, if a little too nasty at times, though that’s partly the role.

The kids — Emma Roberts and Will Poulter — are comically skilled. And Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman are fairly funny to the extent they get a chance to be.

All these mild and almost virtues don’t quite add up to a recommendation, but if you said you wanted to see “We’re the Millers,” I wouldn’t block the door.

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