Movie review: 'Wanderlust'
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, Feb. 24, 2012
Paul Rudd delivers moments of inspired lunacy in "Wanderlust," a shambling mix of cheap laughs and genuinely funny set pieces
from writer-director David Wain. Fans of Wain and Rudd's earlier collaboration "Role Models" (and there are more than a few
of us) have been eagerly anticipating the return of their raunchy but sweet comic stylings. Where "Wanderlust" hews more to
cliches and lazy stereotypes about the subculture it's lampooning - in this case a latter-day hippie commune outside Atlanta
- it bears the same giddy rhythms and half-baked humanism.
Rudd plays George, a Manhattan corporate drone who, as "Wanderlust" opens, is buying a West Village apartment with his wife,
Linda (Jennifer Aniston). When George anxiously remarks that they're paying a lot of money for a studio apartment, their real
estate agent sternly reminds him that it's a "micro-loft." When George loses his job and Linda's documentary about penguins
with testicular cancer isn't picked up by HBO (despite her protestations that it's "An Inconvenient Truth" meets "March of
the Penguins"), they're forced to sell and move to Atlanta to sponge off George's obnoxious brother Rick (Ken Marino, who
co-wrote the movie) and his self-medicating wife.
On the way, they stop at Elysium, a rustic colony of dropouts and groovers that its leader Seth (Justin Theroux) insists on
calling an intentional community because "commune" means "a bunch of people sitting around smoking pot and playing guitars."
Of course, when Seth says this, that's precisely what his brethren are doing. Soon, George and Linda have joined a pregnant
flower child named Almond (Lauren Ambrose), a comely blonde free-lover named Eva (Malin Ackerman) and a nudist winemaker named
Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio), living in a farmhouse with no discernible boundaries, architectural or sexual.
The role of an uptight fish out of water is what Rudd was born for, and he plays George with the congeniality and improvisatorial
brio for which he's become deservedly famous. He and Theroux, who's barely recognizable beneath a thatch of long hair and
a beard, deliver the most well-earned laughs in "Wanderlust," which otherwise traffics in tired jokes about menstrual cycles,
placenta soup and rubbing your fingers together instead of clapping.
That is, when it's not stooping to slow-motion scenes of superannuated nudists running across a field in all their pendular
glory. Male frontal nudity may be the driving raison d'etre of "Wanderlust," which also features a sequence of Aniston taking
off her top - an image that's digitally scrambled, presumably according to the actress's contract.
Between this film and last summer's "Horrible Bosses," Aniston's coyness - starring in explicit movies without having to be
explicit herself - seems to be becoming her stock in trade. It's not a particularly commendable one, and "Wanderlust" does
little to disprove that she's still a star more suited to TV rather than the big screen. As for Rudd, he still has charm to
burn, even playing a type he's long since outgrown. Like George observing the overgrown children of Elysium, it might be time
for Rudd to move on.
Contains sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity and drug use.