Notable Cast: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, Alan Alda, Malin Akerman, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Kathryn Hann, Kerri Kenney
Review: Alright, let me get this out of my system now front and center: make Wet Hot American Summer 2 already David Wain! Most of the gang showed up for Wanderlust (minus the bigger, busier names), so wrangle up the stragglers and bring us a Camp Firewood reunion! This isn’t a random sentiment either, because Wanderlust left more to be desired which was not the case for his debut cult comedy smash hit Wet Hot American Summer. Wanderlust had charm and a nice message tied to it, but was missing some grand realization or breakthrough because let’s be honest, in a rut, none of us are converting to hippies instead of facing our problems. A commentary of commercialism, 9 to 5 lifestyles, passionless existences, and oppressive boundaries, Wanderlust encourages all to follow their heart and live with conviction. And then everyone quits their boring day jobs. And then the economy collapses. And then chaos ensues. And then the end of days. Good thing Wanderlust isn’t powerful enough to change the world, but just funny enough to make a passable hour and a half film experience.
George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) live the typical New York life, working mindless jobs and watching society stifle their creativity just to overpay for a tiny “Micro-Loft” located in a posh neighborhood. The American dream. But when George’s company is shut down after unlawful practices and Linda’s penguin documentary is passed up, the dream explodes in their face and the couple are forced to move in with George’s brother Rick (Marino) in Atlanta. The road trip is long and tedious, and Linda finally demands George find the nearest place to crash, which happens to be a bed and breakfast called Elysium. While driving up a dark, wooded road, the two are greeted by a nudist. Freaked out, George slams the car in reverse and ends up flipping it on a dirt bank. With nowhere to go, a stay at Elysium seems immanent, no matter how bizarre the locals are. But after adapting Elysium’s free love lifestyle, the break from New York’s rat race keeps them in the commune on a 2 week trial period living amongst an eclectic cast of characters. But will the structureless belief system wear thin on the couple, or after years of searching have George and Linda found their true calling?
There really isn’t a cool way to meditate, is there…
Both leads are two people I love to see on-screen, but easily predictable when it comes to character portrayal. Paul Rudd plays a charming little everyman equip with a whip cracking wit and nice guy exterior made for every girl to find adorable. Jennifer Aniston is the girl from next door, if you lived next to an ageless beauty complete with an approachable personality to soften her intimidating good looks. As a couple and comedy duo, chemistry works and they visibly have fun together, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen to this point. Rudd is goofy, lovable, says things in funny voices, has a few trademark awkward moments, then has a character shift when he reaches the threshold of a situation he deep down wants no part of. Aniston finds herself, does uncharacteristic things, uses her squeaky voice, and makes a choice she eventually regrets. As for story, yes a fun ride, but again a mindless watch from start to finish as we idle through the couples brief pit stop in lala land. Inevitably we end with Rudd riding back like the white knight, having a “What are we idiots?!” conversation with Aniston, and the couple magically figure out their path with peachy consequences. If only life was so simple.
The ride itself doesn’t fully rest on Rudd and Aniston as it does the stops along the way, in this case via supporting cast. First off, Joe Lo Truglio deserves commending for the balls, and shaft, he shows playing nudist Wayne, letting his one-eyed monster run free all film. Being the first person you meet at Elysium, you shake your head only imagining who else you expect to meet inside. Sadly, not every character lives up to the hype. You then meet Kerri Kenny playing a flighty druggie spewing nonsense who I could have done without. Her Beatles joke wasn’t funny the first time, and only grows tiresome with Wain’s decision to drag out her stupidity. Kathryn Hann’s usual out-of-place angry rants were also used over and over again for a laugh, but lose potency as time goes on. Not all other characters disappointed though. Justin Theroux put forth a nice rendition of the hippie stereotype, always having whimsical words of wisdom that sound hilarious to us normal folk. Writer Ken Marino also played Rudd’s Brother from hell who was funny thanks to small doses, dishing out such perverse and offensive lines with no sense of boundary. Wain even works in a Stella cameo that put me over the edge, yet too many other instances pushed the awkward comedy to an unfunny degree. That’s the problem with Wanderlust. While funny, Wain commits fully to each single joke, successful or not. Watching Paul Rudd think up creative dirty phrases for what seems like an awkward eternity worked because Rudd comes off as clean and innocent, but the film drags thanks to forcing unfunny instances that refuse to give up with the same gravitas.
Underneath all the marital problems, acid rotted brains, truth circles, and heaping helpings of male nudity, Wanderlust dares to question how the average person lives their life. With good reason? Maybe. But full-out psychedelic embodiment isn’t the answer either. Rudd and Aniston take the situation a little too far for a believable couple, and their actions don’t seem to lead anywhere near realistic consequences. Wanderlust is farfetched and quirky, but still yields enough enjoyable moments to coast the audience through. Save yourself the dough and give it a rent for a nice semi-romantic comedy, more rewarding with no money on the line. Did I mention the continual full frontal male nudity though? Talk about overkill…
Final Rating 6.5 bowls of placenta stew (see the movie and you’ll get it) out of 10
Must be an ego boost knowing you and Jen Aniston actually look like a real couple…