Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux
Written by: David Wain (“Role Models”) and Ken Marino (“Role Models”)
Directed by: David Wain (“Role Models”)
When ultra-hippie Seth (Justin Theroux) rattles off a litany of technology he feels normal people are too reliant on, he keeps listing things that are wildly obsolete. He goes on about how people can’t get by without their Walkman, VHS tapes and Zip drives. It’s a joke that is actually really funny at first, but keeps going and going until it’s gone on for way too long. It’s a theme readily apparent in “Wanderlust,” a mostly enjoyable film that stops just shy of wearing out its welcome.
After George (Paul Rudd) is fired from his job, he and his wife Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are forced to sell the apartment they just bought and move out of New York City. On their way to stay with George’s brother in Atlanta, they stop for the night at Elysium, a strange hippie commune disguised as a bed and breakfast. Uncomfortable at first with the group’s all-night parties, practices of “free love” and nonchalant take on nudity, George and Linda start enjoying their time and wonder if Elysium is the place they were meant to be.
The film is anchored by Rudd, who is quickly becoming one of the go-to lead comedic actors after years of supporting roles. Rudd stays in familiar territory with a character stuck in the middle of the craziness around him. His normal charm and improv skills are on display. A good portion of the comedy comes from Rudd being flustered in some way. Playing his on-screen wife, Aniston shows, like she did in “Horrible Bosses,” that she is a great fit for raunchy rated-R comedies. Theroux, who is another character with extra screen time, is a mixed bag. Much of the failed material with Theroux’s character comes from the fact he is written as a caricature. Another problem with “Wanderlust” is its lack of fully-formed supporting characters. The ensemble is huge and each actor gets a laugh or two, but then each of them fades into the background. None of the secondary cast ever really congeal with the exception of the oft-underused Ken Marino, who steals every second of screen time he has playing George’s obnoxious, dolt brother.
Director David Wain seems to take the “throw everything out there and see what sticks” approach to “Wanderlust.” There are jokes flying out at a rapid rate, as well as the occasional absurdist gag that might spur a handful of laughs in the theater. With this film, Wain teams up with producer Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”), who is no stranger to letting his actors improvise dialogue on set. Apatow’s knack for the unscripted seems to have rubbed off on Wain, as many moments of “Wanderlust” appear to be heavily improvised. The joint result of these aspects is a film that feels a little cut and pasted in the editing room and strangely put together at times. While there are some long form takes such as Rudd’s amazing improvised sexual pep talk in a mirror, there are a lot of scenes that carry on with very little reward.
Though Wain’s team could have been a little more judicious in the editing room, “Wanderlust” is funny more often than not and gets plenty of mileage out of the eccentricities of the unconventional community. Still, what truly makes“Wanderlust” work is the hilarity and unmatchable likability of Rudd.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”)
Written by: Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”)
If personality makes up the majority of a superhero’s likability, Iron Man should be considered the Marvel comic book character you’d love to hate.
That’s not to say two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Robert Downey Jr. has lost all the charisma that made the 2008 original blockbuster film so downright entertaining and original. Even when Downey Jr. isn’t donning the maroon and gold mechanical suit that transforms him into a weapon of mass destruction, he has another captivating persona he can fall back on.
Meet Tony Stark. While you might know him from the first “Iron Man,” the sequel, aptly called “Iron Man 2,” allows us to meet the man inside the machine on a more personal level. In the film, Tony seems to be running on fumes. As Iron Man, he can still hold his own against anyone that comes his way, but as a mortal, the genius billionaire industrialist has a serious problem.
The power source embedded in his chest, which is keeping him alive, is also slowly poisoning him. Along with his health issues, Tony is butting heads with the U.S. Senate, who wants him to turn over his Iron Man machinery. The Senate says his invention is a threat to national security especially if a country decides to copy the technology and use it against the U.S.
Tony refuses to relinquish his work stating that it would take years for someone to duplicate what he has done. He is oblivious to the fact that Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has already engineered his own version of the suit and fastened it to himself to transform into the electromagnetic super villain known as Whiplash. When he teams up with Tony’s major weapons competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), the two set out to develop an army of drones that would take the arms race by storm.
Replacing Terrance Howard from the original, Don Cheadle plays Lt. Col. James Rhodes, who later attempts to put a stop to Tony’s destructive ways caused by his alcohol problem. Although he manages to spiral downward fairly quickly, love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) doesn’t give up on him that easy. Neither does S.H.I.E.L.D. front man Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who makes sure Tony’s talents aren’t wasted. His stubbornness to join the secret agency known as the Avengers will be short-lived since all these Marvel movies are linking together for one giant superhero reunion in the next few years.
No matter what is being planned for the future, “Iron Man 2” is able to stand on its own. It works well with enough action sequences, fight scenes and some interesting characters, none of which match the humor and charm of Downey Jr. who again makes the movie his own personal and egotistical show.