Directed by: David Wain (Role Models)
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, Alan Alda, Malin Akerman
If you’re unlike me and find Paul Rudd’s genteel smart-assery to be the cat’s pajamas, or somehow aren’t confounded by Jennifer Aniston continuing to have a movie career despite sucking the charisma out of every project she appears in, then perhaps you’ll get more out of Wanderlust than I did. Even then, your enjoyment prospects might be iffy, since the lead actors are the least of the film’s worries. We’re also stuck with a rickety script full of grating, slow burning jokes that wants to be a send-up of American life—from hippies to middle American malaise—but without the wit to be biting or sense to have an actual point. Hell, there’s not even any wandering in Wanderlust.
Rudd and Aniston play George and Linda, married New Yorkers who are forced to move to Atlanta when George suddenly loses his job. On the way there, they stumble upon a commune of hippies living in the Georgia backwoods. After one eye-opening night—and after seeing the alternative of living with George’s gauche, loudmouthed brother (Ken Marino, Role Models) in Atlanta—the duo decide to move in with these flighty free spirits in order to escape the horrors of modern life. The film works on George’s realization that he finds hippies annoying, while the flaky Linda soon finds herself being drawn into their Bohemian lifestyle.
The majority of the film’s humor comes from the idea that hippies are weird, out-of-touch burnouts who reject the mores of modernity in exchange for extravagant and often bizarre notions on how to live—with that idea cranked up into an absurd parody. Fine. I’m not here to argue the validity—or lack thereof—of this caricature, but rather to point out that it is a caricature—and a hamfisted one at that—one without the legs or originality to carry an entire picture. There are no teeth to this kind of supposed satire, and therefore, is no point. The film lacks the heart of director David Wain’s Role Models (2008), and for that matter, the absurdity and bizarre nature of his Wet Hot American Summer (2001). That Wanderlust’s funniest moments include a couple of gags from Wet Hot American Summer alums Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter suggests what the film might be missing.
There’s been a big deal over whether or not Aniston bares her breasts in this film, and before you fork over hard-earned admission fee, I’ll tell you that she shows nothing that would embarrass her mother—except maybe her acting. (She claims this was out of respect for her boyfriend Justin Theroux, but he’s been in two David Lynch films for criminy’s sake, and can probably handle it.) Actually, that the biggest hype surrounding this movie is the possibility of Jennifer Aniston exposing her areolas to the world should be a clue as to the limits on what this movie has to offer. Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use.