Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star in Wanderlust, a comedy from director David Wain (Role Models) and producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up) about a couple who leaves the pressures of the big city and joins a freewheeling community where the only rule is to be yourself.
George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) are an overextended, stressed out Manhattan couple. After George is downsized out of his job, they find themselves with only one option: to move in with George's awful brother in Atlanta. On the way there, George and Linda stumble upon Elysium, an idyllic community populated by colorful characters who embrace a different way of looking at things. Money? It can't buy happiness. Careers? Who needs them? Clothes? Only if you want them. Is Elysium the fresh start George and Linda need? Or will the change of perspective cause more problems than it solves?
Producer Judd Apatow is at it again, bringing his not-quite-right brand of comedy to a hippie commune in Wanderlust.
Paul Rudd (Our Idiot Brother) and Jennifer Aniston (who, no matter what she does, will always be Rachel Green from "Friends") are George and Linda, a power couple in New York City who find themselves with a small, expensive apartment and no jobs. They head south to Atlanta, where George's brother Rick (played to bullying perfection by screenwriter Ken Marino) has promised him a job until he gets back on his feet. On the way, the couple stumbles across a farm called Elysium, which they believe is a hotel. They stay the night, finding out quickly enough that it is actually an "intentional community," where the members share all possessions, practice free love and get stoned and play music. After spending the evening partying with the group, George and Linda take off for Atlanta, but not before Seth (Justin Theroux from "The District"), the charismatic spiritual leader of the commune, invites them to stay. They decline, but after one night with the obnoxious Rick and his dysfunctional family, they find themselves back at Elysium. George and Linda decide to give themselves two weeks to decide if they want to stay for good, and set about living with the freethinkers. The pair learn more about the members of the commune than they bargained for, even finding out that not all of them are what they appear to be.
Wanderlust is exactly what one would expect from a Judd Apatow movie. It's light on story, but has plenty of laughs. The screenplay was written by "The State" creators David Wain and Ken Marino (who also wrote Role Models), and directed by Wain, and it succeeds at its primary purpose - it's funny. However, once the laughter dies down, what's left is a brainless, uninteresting story that plods on and on, interspersed with hysterical situational comedy. The cinematic formula of taking a character out of their element has been done to death, and has been done better than Wain does it in Wanderlust. Wain and Marino are great at supplying the funny scenes, but not as effective at tying them together into a single unified story. The funny bits don't come nearly as fast and furiously as they should, so the audience winds up sitting around waiting for the next one-liner or rake in the face. Unfortunately, they have to wade through a lot of drudge to get there.
Wanderlust is first and foremost a comedy, yet it plays like it's trying to have heart. The problem with that schematic is that the characters in Wanderlust are not developed enough for the feel-good story to take hold. Most of the cast are comedic actors (and very good ones), but they are not as effective at playing to the empathy of the audience. In this way, Wanderlust would be better served to be full-throttle, never let up comedy instead of the soft-ball, once in a while gut-buster. In a world where story is king, Wanderlust only supplies supporting laughs, making the film feel more like a sketch comedy show than a cohesive movie. Maybe that explains why the best part of the movie is the closing credit outtakes.
Oh, and the answer to the question on everyone's mind - Jennifer Aniston's topless scene is all but cut from the movie; all that remains is a heartbreaking, fleeting glimpse of side-boob.
The humor in Wanderlust is the clever, potty-mouthed, just over-the-top enough comedy that Apatow's productions are known for. What makes Wanderlust so funny is the exceptional cast. For example, in one scene where the group is having a "truth circle," Seth beckons George and Linda to let their true feelings out, but keeps interrupting them when they speak. The chemistry between Rudd, Aniston and Theroux is hilarious, with the audience wanting to yell at Seth to shut the hell up and let them talk. And the actors don't need to play off of each other to be funny, either; in another scene, George is looking in a mirror, practicing what he's going to say to a woman once Linda agrees to the "free love" part of the commune. Rudd contorts his face, tries out different accents and says filthy things for just the right amount of time, quitting before the gag is no longer funny.
Wain also calls upon a couple of television legends to deliver more hilarity - "M*A*S*H"'s Alan Alda plays the owner of the commune's house, who has to recite the name of every person who bought the house with him in 1971 every time he's asked (there are nine), and Linda Lavin from "Alice" is a real estate agent that tells George and Linda a little too much information about the naughty things she does to her blind husband. Add in a few scenes that include hallucinogens, which are arguably the funniest scenes in the film, and one character named Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio from "Reno 911!"), who is a wine-making, nudist author, and Wanderlust is full of side-splitting moments.
February 24, 2012