Jennifer Aniston. Malin Akerman. And an open sex environment. Paul Rudd, what have you gotten yourself into? From the director of Wet Hot American Summer comes a more polished version of Wet Hot American Summer, a hippie-themed romp of comedy bits that work more than not. The title is Wanderlust, another Judd Apatow-produced laugh fest.
David Wain, who also directed the hilarious Role Models (which, like Summer, also starred Rudd), introduces to two overly worked up New York City dwellers who are so consumed by their mainstream lives they could only exist in a Hollywood movie. After George (Rudd) loses his job and Linda (Aniston) is told by HBO executives that her documentary about penguins with testicular cancer make them want to slit their wrists, the married couple flee the city and accidentally end up at a commune.
The rest of the plot really isn't important, other than that you can expect the two to quarrel about a variety of things (that open sex issue mentioned earlier, for one) and eventually sort out their differences and profess their love to one another while Paul Rudd's face lingers dangerously close to another man's crotch.
You know, the typical ending in romantic comedies.
To call Wanderlust a romantic comedy isn't very fair, as it's a lighthearted but certainly R-rated flick that will appeal to both genders equally. The movie is built upon a framework that resembles a romantic comedy, but the juice comes from a series of seemingly adlibbed scenes that don't have a lot to do with romance or girly things. Can I use "framework" and "juice" metaphors in the same sentence?
Never mind that.
Wanderlust is a funny movie that relies heavily on the comedic talent involved. Rudd is hilarious in the lead, with two of the funniest scenes involving the even-tempered actor attempting to talk dirty - in a very long and awkward fashion. Anistion has great chemistry with him, but it's Rudd who steals the show. The supporting cast all serve their parts dutifully, with Joe Lo Truglio, Michaela Watkins and co-writer Ken Marino standing out among the rest.
Wain does what "Saturday Night Live" has seemingly forgotten how to do: he lets each scene - which are more or less mini skits - develop to a punch line, and then he lets the scene linger just a little longer, or a lot longer, often in a painfully awkward but entertaining way. Unlike "SNL", the scenes are actually funny.
The routine of editing together a bunch of funny moments does begin to wear on Wanderlust in its third act, however, as Wain and Marino seemingly came to the conclusion that they had to convince everyone that their movie does indeed have a plot. Between the inevitable romantic reconciliation of George and Linda and the emergence of a villain, if you can call Justin Theroux that, Wanderlust drifts away from what was working so well.
In other words, it's really funny for 50 minutes, fairly funny for another 20 and dragging during the home stretch.
Wanderlust is a funny film that tries a little too hard at the end, or doesn't try hard enough earlier on. But it's good for a laugh, and it's one of those movies that could, and deserves to, catch fire in the wasteland of late winter/early spring. It's far from perfect, but remember: Jennifer Aniston. Malin Ackerman. Open sex environment. For Paul Rudd, such a situation can only go horribly awry, which is a good thing for the rest of us.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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