Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Opens locally Friday, February 24th, 2012
Run Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, Alan Alda, Ken Marino, Lauren Ambrose
Written by David Wain & Ken Marino
Directed by David Wain (Role Models, The Ten, Wet Hot American Summer)
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are George and Linda, a married couple living in Manhattan. When George loses his job, they go to stay with George's brother and wife in Atlanta. Finding that to be unbearable, they happen upon a secluded Bed & Breakfast called Elysium, which just so happens to be a rural commune, and they decide to live their lives in accordance with these free-loving, free-spirited hippies.
Wanderlust is a strictly R-rated raunch-fest, where the brand of comedy and topics of conversation are as free as the inhabitants of Elysium. There's a lot of talk about drugs, living off the land, and free love. It is a hippy paradise, where there are no possessions, no need for greed or hunger. George and Linda at first find solace in the openness, and later suffocation. The film decides that any extreme lifestyle has its benefits as well as pitfalls.
The commune is made up of several inhabitants that are all quirky and equally funny in their own way. Director David Wain is a veteran of the great yet short lived MTV series The State sketch show, and also directed a bunch of episodes of Comedy Central's Children's Hospital. Fans of either show and fans of Wain's earlier films will be able to sense the same comedic tone present in Wanderlust.
Fans of Wain's will also notice several familiar faces, as many alumni from The State make appearances in Wanderlust. Ken Marino (who co-wrote the film) is great as George's infantile big brother, and even Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter show up in minor roles as TV anchors. Larger roles are given to Joe Lo Truglio as a nudist winemaker and the brilliant Kerri Kenney-Silver playing...Kerri Kenney-Silver. Anybody not familiar with this comedy troupe will find them hysterical, if this blend of comedy suits your taste.
There are several characters in the film that shine that happen to not be The State veterans. Alan Alda is the crusty "leader" of the commune, and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) plays hippy-chick better than most. Justin Theroux plays a laid-back hippy who challenges George for Linda's affection. To me, the best and funniest supporting character was Michaela Watkins, whose desperate housewife gets the film's biggest laughs, even though she isn't in many of the scenes.
Despite the collection of talent, Wanderlust is just a one-joke film. There are plenty of gags and memorable moments, but it grows tired and somewhat boring as it plods along towards its rosy only-in-the-movies conclusion. Comedy is a funny thing, where you appreciate when the boundaries are stretched, but you recoil when things go too far. Many gross-out gags in Wanderlust teeter on this border. For every outrageous gag that works, be prepared for several that don't. Also be prepared for multiple scenes of full-frontal male nudity, meant to induce shock and laughter, rarely achieving both.
In lesser hands, Wanderlust could have been awful. But with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston holding things together, how bad could it really end up being? Paul Rudd is one of the best actors and comedians working today, and although he's in a ton of movies I don't think he's given the credit he deserves. His delivery of lines and facial expressions make the film worth watching. There is a particular scene where he talks to himself in the mirror, trying to get himself mentally prepared to go exercise his free love. It is a scene where you can just tell that he was given creative license to improvise. The result is by far the funniest sequence in the film, and will be remembered as one of the funniest scenes quite possibly in his career.
The world of Wanderlust was quite interesting to be a part of, but it overstayed its welcome. Still, there was a lot to like, even if all of the individual brilliance didn't add up to much more than mediocre.
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