NEW YORK The cast of "We're the Millers" didn't exactly immerse themselves in research for their roles in the new comedy. Then again, considering the characters they played, that might have been for the best.
In the film, which opens on Wednesday, small-time pot dealer David finds himself in hock to his supplier, and agrees to smuggle some marijuana from Mexico to the United States to pay off the debt.
David, played by Jason Sudeikis, pulls together a phony family to paint a picture of innocence before suspicious border guards. He enlists stripper Rose (Jennifer Aniston), runaway Casey (Emma Roberts) and naive teenage neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter).
The four drive a recreational vehicle across the border and back as a series of mishaps tests the fake family.
So, role research? Not so much.
"They had to drag me out of that strip club every night," Aniston deadpanned at a recent news conference.
The movie's off-kilter look at family road trip movies isn't the only way "We're the Millers" subverts convention.
With its broad take on families, what they mean and how they're built, "We're the Millers" is as concerned with changing viewers' perspectives as with getting laughs.
"Part of what was exciting for me about the project was the element of subversion of your standard family road trip movie or the tropes of that," director Rawson Marshall Thurber told Reuters in an interview.
A game of Pictionary goes south after Kenny draws a skateboard and David and Rose wind up making some anatomical guesses that are not exactly family friendly.
David threatens to pull the RV over during a family fight. The typical paternal admonishment of "I'll turn this car around and we'll go straight home" becomes "No drugs for anyone" if the bickering doesn't stop.
And the notion of family is redefined. The characters joined the trip for selfish reasons, Thurber noted, but they grew to care about each other.
"That's the whole emotional storyline that plays throughout the film, which is, we get four people who get into this adventure and this quest for their own reasons," Thurber said.
Aniston portrays a stripper whose loser ex has left her in financial straits. She agrees to play David's wife in his drug-smuggling scheme for cash.
Despite her sketchy background, Aniston's character Rose is most notable for her quick thinking, such as when she fakes a group prayer to appease an angry flight attendant.
The movie has "nothing to do with female sexuality and everything to do with interpersonal relationships and the bonds of family, be they biological or volitional choices," Thurber said.
"What I want to do is make a movie that's really funny, that's enjoyable, but also gives you just a little bit of something to talk about on the way home."