Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use.
Starring Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, Alan Alda, Malin Akerman, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Kathryn Hahn, Kerri Kenney, Lauren Ambrose, Michaela Watkins, Jordan Peele, Linda Lavin, Jessica St. Clair, Todd Barry.
Written by David Wain and Ken Marino.
Directed by David Wain.
There's an old saying that suggests if you remember the 60s, you weren't really there. Hippies and members of other social groups from that era have been depicted in films over the years, but I think the further we get from the 60s, the sillier the characters get. Such is the case for most of the characters who appear in Wanderlust, the story of a yuppie couple who lose their way.
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star as George and Linda, a New York City couple whose careers take a dive. Their bad luck forces George and Linda to move in with George's successful A-hole brother Rick (Ken Marino - who is also the film's co-writer) and his wife Marissa(Michaela Watkins) in Atlanta. Before they get to Atlanta, George and Linda chance upon what appears to be bed and breakfast called "Elysium" in the Georgia countryside, where they decide to spend the night. George and Linda soon discover that Elysium is really a hippie commune (or "intentional community") where its permanent residents partake in all kinds of 60s-themed counterculture like drugs, new-age spiritualism, nudism, free love and communal property. George and Linda enjoy themselves, and partake of a little hippie lifestyle for the night, before pressing on to Rick and Marissa's home in the morning. Upon arrival, George and Linda find themselves at the mercy of Rick's abuse and Marissa's comatose indifference. They decide that Elysium is a preferred alternative to the Atlanta suburbian hell, and head back to the commune.
But visiting Elysium turns out to be a little easier than being members of the community, where George and Linda are expected to share everything from their car and possessions to their marriage. Elysium's spiritual leader Seth (Justin Theroux) takes a special interest in Linda, while Eva (Malin Akerman) offers herself to George. Meanwhile, a group of greedy investors try to take over Elysium's land to build casino, while the commune's founder Carvin (Alan Alda) tries to locate the property's deed to avoid a hostile takeover. Another commune member Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio) acts as the group's resident nudist-winemaker-novelist.
Linda seems to adapt well at Elysium, but George doesn't, and can't quite get into the idea of free love, even after Seth and Linda have sex. George leaves Linda at Elysium and returns to his brother's house before realizing his mistake.
Wanderlust has a lot of funny scenes and characters who provide the perfect backdrop for this fish-out-of-water tale, even if the gimmicks seem familiar. Wanderlust's raunchy brand of comedy is certainly familiar, as it has all the tell-tale signs of just about every other Judd Apatow film ever created. Personally, I think Apatow's style, coupled with Marino and co-writer/director David Wain (Horrible Bosses)'s dependence on sexual humor tends to grate a little after so many other smutty predecessors cut from the same Apatow cloth. At one point or another, the smut becomes nothing more than gratuitous cheap laughs instead of depending on solid storytelling and scripting.
The performances in Wanderlust are well suited for the roles, but none of the actors seem to stretch beyond their own personas, with the possible exception of Theroux, Kathryn Hahn (playing a woman who takes non-violence to hilarious extremes) and Kerri Kenney (as Elysium's resident ditz). Aniston and Apatow-regular Rudd seem forever destined to play their own neurotic selves. That's especially true for Rudd, who has one excruciating long scene in which he talks dirty to himself in the mirror. It stopped being funny after the first 30 seconds, and it seems a little forced. I sometimes wonder if Rudd could still find work if not for the existence of Apatow.
One warning: Keep in mind that Wanderlust is rated R for (among other things) "graphic nudity" which is MPAA code for male nudity, so if you saw the warning and associated it with Aniston (or Akerman, for that matter), you're in for a major disappointment.
Despite the all-too-familiar vulgarity, Wanderlust has its hilarious moments, although the movie weakens toward the end. It also seems like a betrayal when we discover that the modern-day hippies aren't really very exceptional, and are mostly driven by the same greedy tendencies of the the mainstream culture they oppose.
I suppose that's reality, man. It's all groovy, though.