|Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston with a mostly-amusing cast in David Wain's Wanderlust|
*** out of ****
Wanderlust didn't amaze me but I laughed. There is something potentially profound about the story of a financially exiled New York couple who look for their place in regular-America and find themselves between the world of idiot materialists and idiot hippies. Happiness must be somewhere. For the sake of this being an enjoyable comedy, they decide to stay with the hippies in a commune. We then have a relationship comedy where the innocent couple are challenged with the free love ideology that the free-spirits embrace.
The story winds up being weaker than it should, but a half-assed story can't stop a movie from being funny. Most of the humor in this film flies but a bit of it seems misplaced. I may be alone here, but I thought the movie had a too much invested in Justin Theroux, who plays the influential alpha male of the commune who winds up being the comic antagonist. Theroux is a talented man but he brings nothing to the douchebag-hippie caricature that feels fresh or comically insightful. I felt it was a very generic performance.
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston work well as the film's leads. Rudd's deadpan ability helps the comedy survive and it's nice to see Aniston at least trying to be in interesting movies again.
The co-writer/director David Wain is still one of my favorite people working in comedy today. As much as I liked his last movie Role Models, I felt like it was his first step into formulaic studio comedy that could find more success. I feel like this movie sinks a little deeper into that kind of banality. There are funny jokes, yes, but the passage of the story seems a bit lazy and lacks the uncontrollable twists and turns of his hilarious Wet Hot American Summer and his short-lived TV show for his comedy group, Stella.
As in all of Wain's movies you have plenty of alumni from The State who add a lot of comedy. Joe Lo Truglio terrifyingly bears all as the commune's resident nudist. Co-writer/actor Ken Marino never fails to play someone I hate. Kerri Kenney is a character stuck in her own la-la land and can't stop talking. Best of all, Stella (Wain, Michael Ian Black, and Michael Showalter) appears as Atlanta Georgia newscasters.
There's further support from great cast members like Alan Alda as the commune's slightly oblivious founder. Catherine Hahn is great as a hypersensitive hippie. Michaela Watkins, an actress I wasn't familiar with, made quite an impression as a borderline insane housewife. The beautiful Malin Ackerman is perfectly cast as someone to tempt a man to abandon monogamy.
Wain is a great force in modern comedy and I hope that he can find a way to take his resources and produce a successful comedy movie that has the same unpredictable spirit of his previous work.
Here's a good review from David Edelstien.