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At the movies

We’re The Millers
DIRECTED BY: Rawson Marshall Thurber
STARRING: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts

IF you crossed National Lampoon’s Vacation with The Hangover, you might breed something like We’re The Millers, ­ an R-rated comedy with a soft heart, a movie for grown-ups that could almost pass for family entertainment. It’s a curious beast. At its best, it’s also one of the funniest films of the summer.

David (Sudeikis) is a small-time pot dealer who winds up in a spot of bother when he goes against his better judgment and tries to be a good citizen. His cash and his merchandise stolen, he’s in serious debt to his big-time supplier (Ed Helms), a man with a soft spot for killer whales. Rather than throw David in the tank, he offers him a chance to make amends. All he has to do is pick up a ‘smidge’ of high-grade marijuana in Mexico and smuggle it back across the border. For his troubles, he’ll even make a few quid.

It’s a dodgy job but David hits on the perfect plan to pull it off. All he needs is a fake happy family, the kind of idiot tourists who never get bothered by the cops.

With various degrees of difficulty, he manages to recruit the new clan – neighbour and foul-mouthed stripper Rose (Aniston), naïve latchkey teenager Kenny (Poulter) and Casey (Roberts), the streetwise homeless girl who got him in this mess in the first place. All that’s needed to round off the illusion is a haircut and a big shiny RV and the ‘Millers’ are ready to roll.

From here on, you know exactly where the movie is going and you know the kind of twists and turns it will take on the way. You know the big deal will go bad, you know the RV will break down and you know that the Millers will cross paths with an even more ‘wacky’ family. You also know that a major bust-up is on the way but that by the time the credits roll, big life lessons will be learned. Director Thurber (Dodgeball) and his committee of screenwriters don’t stray far from the old worn path.

What makes the trip worthwhile, though, are the small and sometimes hilarious surprises that pop up along this familiar route and the performances of an unlikely but irresistibly likeable cast.

Jennifer Aniston’s filthy language,­ not to mention that Flashdance routine, may get most of the attention, but her co-stars are more than a match and well worthy of note. Jason Sudeikis made his name on Saturday Night Live and Horrible Bosses and most recently lent his talents to NBC’s promotional advert for their coverage of this season’s Premier League ­playing Tottenham’s new American head coach, Ted Lasso. It’s funny stuff and he provides many of the laughs here too.

Young Will Poulter makes a big impression as Kenny, not least for a very delicate spider bite and a scene in which he gets kissing lessons from both his sister and his mother, which I reckon makes him unique in screen history. In lesser roles, Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hann are memorable as a pair of wholesome would-be swingers.

We’re The Millers might have been a sharper, edgier comedy if all concerned had been willing to take a few more risks, to push the boat out more often rather than play it safe.

For what it is, though, it’s grand, a nicely entertaining road trip that does what a comedy should, a pleasant surprise at the end of another disappointing summer at the cinema.

In the obligatory closing blooper reel, there’s a nice little joke on Jennifer Aniston. It’s a reminder of where she came from and how far it is from there to the world of a dope-smuggling pole dancer. If nothing else, you don’t get that every week.

VOICES: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, Val Kilmer

CARS and its cynical sequel are probably the weakest of Pixar’s animated films but that hasn’t stopped their bosses at Disney from pushing ahead with Cars in The Sky. Or as they like to call it, Planes. In fairness to Pixar, they’ve had nothing to do with the project.

It’s the story of a crop-dusting plane called Dusty (alleged comedian Dane Cook), whose dram is to win the annual round-the-world air race. Not too likely for a workhorse who’d be a tad on the slow side, though Dusty’s biggest issue is his fear of heights, which I’d guess would be unusual in the airplane world.

Not to worry, with WWII veteran fighter plane Skipper (Keach) as his mentor, all obstacles will be overcome and his fellow competitors, an internationall field of ‘hilarious’ ethnic stereotypes, will be left in the 3D dust.

The prospect of massive toy sales was surely the only reason Planes got a cinema release. It was originally intended to go straight to DVD and it’s easy enough to see why. In all respects, it’s well below Disney’s traditional standard and, bar the occasional exciting aerial sequence, it doesn’t belong on the big screen.

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