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‘Millers’ tries too hard to be funny

Jason Sudeikis, left, and Tomer Sisley are among the cast in “We’re the Millers.” (Associated Press)
Jason Sudeikis, left, and Tomer Sisley are among the cast in “We’re the Millers.” (Associated Press)

“We’re the Millers” is an identity comedy with identity issues.

Jason Sudeikis plays a pot dealer who, as a disguise for smuggling a huge shipment of weed, forms a fake family to drive an RV across the Mexico border. He gathers local stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), surly homeless teenager Casey (Emma Roberts) and his young, naive neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter).

The whole concept has two motives: to lampoon the idea of the traditional all-American family, and to give an excuse to get Aniston to take off her clothes. Both are worthy endeavors, but everything in “We’re the Millers” feels forced – a hodgepodge of comedic rhythms made to lurch from one crude gag to another.

Despite obvious comedic talents, Sudeikis and Aniston have each had difficulty finding their place in the movies, and neither really fit their parts: small-time Denver pot dealer (dispatched for the pick-up by Ed Helms’ polite but ruthless drug lord) and bitter stripper with a heart of gold, respectively.

The concealed identity shtick would have been more fruitful if the characters’ personalities weren’t just as thin as their charade. But with such stereotype underpinnings, “We’re the Millers” remains the broadest of caricatures.

The film, too, comes from mixed sensibilities. The script was begun by “Wedding Crashers” scribes Bob Fisher and Steve Faber, and finished by “Hot Tub Time Machine” writers Sean Anders and John Morris. “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” director Rawson Marshall Thurber keeps the tone appropriately breezy, but understandably struggles to find the right sense of timing.

“We’re the Millers” aims for a nuclear family farce, pushing it one step further than its obvious inspiration, “National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation”: Not only are they not the gleaming picture of family life they might seem, they’re not even a real family.

Every pit stop is a chance for gratuity. There’s a campout with swingers (Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn) and a run-in with pursuing drug dealers that inanely becomes Aniston’s strip tease. But it’s starting to look unlikely she’ll ever find another “The Good Girl” – or is really seeking it.

As a diversion, one could do worse. Sudeikis’ smart-aleck Midwest charm, masking a more-devious instinct, does a lot to carry the film.

But he’s straining here to keep the ship righted. When the end-credit bloopers roll, Sudeikis and Aniston, free of the contrived plot, look like they’re finally having fun.