WANDERLUST Review

I was admittedly worried when "Wanderlust" was pushed from last October to February. Though neither month is usually good stomping grounds for movies that studios expect to do well, February is decidedly worse. It is that time of the year when we are coming off all the high prestige projects that are recieving Oscar nominations and all the big budget effects-driven summer films. That time of year when studios dump movies on unsuspecting crowds that might venture out to something they may not have seen were it released at any other point in the year. Fortunately, "Wanderlust" is as funny and ridiculous as I could have hoped for. Director David Wain has a history of not only collaborating with co-writer Ken Marino but also star Paul Rudd. The three have collaborated on "Wet Hot American Summer" and 2008's "Role Models" as well as "The Ten". While they seem to have really found their groove with "Role Models" they continue to grow in the right direction with "Wanderlust". While this may not be as consistently funny as "Role Models" was it certainly has the amount of charm and despite hitting familiar beats story-wise it also has the guts to go a little gonzo and stretch for the slightly weird. This might appeal only to certain movie-goers tastes but it allows itself this quality by sporting such a widely-liked cast that stand by the out-there material while delivering some seriously good laughs along the way. "Wanderlust" may be all I needed it to be but I can understand where some will not be as pleased with it, but even they have to admit that for this time of year "Wanderlust" is giving us a break from the other releases we might have settled for.

George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are
relieved after spending their first night at Elysium.
The story here is rather straightforward and like "Role Models' doesn't really matter all that much because the actors involved create characters (or stick with their personas) that elevate not really the material but simply make us more invested in them and convince us they are worth hanging out with for an hour and a half. Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are George and Linda, two New York Manhattanites who love their city life, well kinda. George has an office job that he hates but does well in supporting Linda who hasn't yet found her niche. When we meet them they have just purchased a "micro-loft" which is realtor speak for studio apartment. Linda is trying to pitch a documentary about penguins with cancer to HBO in her latest effort to find a career when George loses his job and now broke and having to sell their new place they have no choice but to travel down to Atlanta where George's brother Rick (a perfectly macho/idiotic/snarky Ken Marino) has a job for him at his porta potty business. Along their way George and Linda stumble upon a hippie commune posing as a bed and breakfast where they have a night of care-free fun that hasn't seemed to be a part of their life for a long time. As it is called, Elysium is a place of free love, pot smoking, and vegans. "Wanderlust" has such a great supporting cast populating the members of this little tribe we understand why George and Linda are so taken by them. Frequent Wain and Rudd collaborator Joe Lo Truglio as Wayne the nudist wine maker, Malin Akerman (The Heartbreak Kid) is Eva who wants to experiment the free love philosophy with George, Kathryn Hahn as Karen (who always seems to be playing the crazy lady whether it be alongside Rudd in "Our Idiot Brother" or alongside Rudd in "How Do You Know" and let's not forget "Step Brothers", "The Goods" etc...) and Justin Theroux as headmaster Seth who steals every scene he decides to show up in. Even Alan Alda as Elysium patriarch Carvin gets a few solid laughs and seems to be having a great time.

George watches on as Linda loves her new found freedom,
but Seth (Justin Theroux) seems to enjoy her changes more.
It is in this humbled and awkward group of people that George and Linda find a kind of solace from the busy world of, as Seth would put it, "web of beepers and Zenith televisions and Walkmens and discmens and floppy discs and zip drives, laser discs, answering machines and Nintendo Power Glove..." and where director Wain has tapped into a culture with a bizarre sense of humor that is a perfect platform for Rudd and the rest of his cast to lampoon. As Seth, Theroux gets his first real acting break with a role he can really bring something to after being the behind the scenes go-to-man for years. Every line the guy spits out is so full of ridiculous, made-up philosophy it all feels like great improv and on a movie like this you can't ask for much more. He is complimented nicely by the earnest Rudd who is so lovable and has an essence of being that every guy, that family man and to see him go all the way for it and sacrifice himself for a joke is not just endearing but it's hilarious. Every time. Wain knows when to let Rudd shine too, despite the obvious emotional trips his character is taking we watch as George knows what he should do and instead goes completely the wrong direction until his late in the game epiphany that rolls out the expected conclusion. As said earlier though the story stays within a safe structure but it is safe to say the content does not. What made "Wanderlust" so appealing was the idea of being what in essence the movies are about: escaping reality. And as Linda, Aniston continues her winning streak and lets her inhibitions fly free. She is hilarious in small moments and completely convincing in her turn. She is a vet at playing opposite comedic leading men yet this time she is given room to spread her own wings and she nails it.

Rick (Ken Marino) tries to get out of a sticky situation with
wife Marissa (Michaela Watkins).
While "Wanderlust" is certainly not going to be for everyone, for those that love Paul Rudd (how couldn't you?) it is a good time and there are plenty of laughs to be had. Everyone on screen seems to be having such a good time and none of them taking themselves seriously. It is an engaging film that offers up a trip none of us would likely mind taking given the grind of the work week and stress of bills. We are given a buffet of engaging characters and are treated to 98-minutes of consistently funny gags and chuckles. It certainly won't go down as Wain and Rudd's greatest collaboration but it is a noteworthy addition to their already stellar collection. Whether they are sending up cynics and helpful organizations, summer camps or hippies there is a quality about their films that give them a "we're just messin with ya..." vibe that never makes it feel like it would actually offend anyone, rather they would just laugh along at the truth the movie is hitting on and therefor truly bringing the funny. In a cinematic world of comedies that are either big hits or big misses it is nice to have a laid back romp that can offer a getaway and a fun time. Plus if you're not into that whole scene there is always the fall back reason to see this movie which is full frontal nudity by senior citizens. Suck on that for a while and tell me you don't love the idea of "Wanderlust".