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.