Film Reviews

Vast ensemble drives broad Wanderlust

There are two kinds of people in this world. Draw a line in the dirt, and I’m on the side saying, “Um, gross, dirt.” Comedy Wanderlust is a film about taking people out of their Bed, Bath & Beyond-sponsored comfort zones and nudging them across that absolutely grizzly line into more uninhibited, down-to-earth territory.

Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd tag-team as Linda and George, an over-stressed, over-Starbucks Triple Venti Cinnamon Dolce Latte-ed couple that can no longer afford payments on their teeny-tiny Manhattan studio apartment. Out of options, the duo finds themselves staying with George’s loathsome brother Rick (co-writer Ken Marino) while they try to get back on their feet.

Eventually, Rick’s racist, sexist and patronizing comments push the two to pack up and trade in this bell jar of douchery for Elysium, a rural commune dominated by organic farming, mind-altering substances and free love. What starts as a two-week detox detours into George and Linda at a crossroads on becoming part of Elysium’s co-op life. Comedy, community and cannabis ensue.

Writer/director David Wain is no stranger to capturing the great outdoors on film. While the longhaired, non-conformist cabin setting is less irreverent here than in his cult-revered Wet Hot American Summer, his ability to corral awesome, oft-underrated, talent keeps Wanderlust from totally meandering.

Cast members Justin Theroux, Kathryn Hahn, Lauren Ambrose and Michaela Watkins, to name a few, never feel unnecessary in their supporting roles and Rudd is consistently good as ever. But it’s Aniston by whom audiences will probably be most surprised. Maybe it’s ‘cause she’s in a relationship with fellow cast mate Theroux that the media can’t really mess with (“Anistheroux” and “Therounistan” just don’t look pretty on a tabloid), maybe it’s ‘cause she actually has decent material to work with, but finally here’s a comedic role that actually suits her earthy Jenni-zen yoga personality. Wanderlust hits homegurl’s funny bone feng shui.

But U-turn back to Elysium. Generally, Wain’s style, rooted in sketch comedy, is on broad overdrive here with mostly-hit, sometimes-miss sequences. There’s one mirror pep-talk scene in particular with Rudd that stretches a little long, but regardless, you’ll hear it quoted in frat houses for the next few semesters. Then again, maybe I’m just bitter watching Paul Rudd look at himself in a mirror since it only reminds me how every morning when I wake up, I look in the mirror and realize I’m not Paul Rudd. #NotPaulRuddProblems

Then for every handful of these explicit scenes, there’s one more observationally subdued, such as when three male news anchors display subtle misogynist tendencies towards a female colleague on air. It’s a 180-degree aside, serving no narrative purpose, but it doesn’t matter–you’re just glad it’s in there.

Know to expect gags with occasionally strained success and you won’t feel offended by Wain’s humor (which includes some male nudity with a full frontal share of Woodstock, if you catch our drift). Wanderlust won’t have you throwing your cell phone in the ocean, but you’ll feel all right turning it off for the next 98 minutes.