As I write this, it’s raining in New York City. While this doesn’t necessarily correlate to the plot of Wanderlust, the new comedy helmed by David Wain, the director behind 2008’s “Role Models,” it had me thinking, “Was this the right weather to have watched such a sunny movie in?” Usually, I’m insecure about being one of the few not laughing during a movie (years of doing reviews have gotten me jaded) but, during my full screening, there was only the occasional chuckle in the audience. Were we, in fact, all depressed by the showers? No, it turns out watching a film past its expiration date is just as disheartening.
George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are facing their own storm. They’re a stressed Manhattan couple, with the former downsized out of a job and his lover, whilst searching for a purpose, having her documentary about penguins shot down by HBO. Their only option to stay afloat is to move out of their trendy pad and move in with George’s obnoxious brother, Rick (Ken Marino), who lives in Atlanta. On the way there, they stumble on Elysium, a commune for tree-huggers, pot-smokers, and nudists. Founded years ago by a veteran bohemian named Carvin (Alan Alda) and several of his pals, it’s now run by Seth (Justin Theroux), the local shaman. With nothing to lose, they decide to stay in the idyllic community, embracing the philosophy that “money doesn’t buy anything.”
Since the trailers, I’ve been weary of the movie’s hippie shtick; I would’ve preferred Wanderlust being just a movie about a couple rattled by sudden unemployment. The members of Elysium are mostly caricatures who don’t resonant. While some — like a naked novelist named Wayne Davidson (played by Joe Lo Truglio) — have purpose, none have much substance. For the most part, the humor surrounding them is so outdated that it’s not funny anymore. Seriously, when’s the last time someone’s laughed at free love, marijuana use, or literal interpretations of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”?
Had the jokes been even the slightest bit raunchier or more current, this comedy would have been immeasurably better. Rudd and Aniston are likable actors stuck playing too decent of people: George is such a nice guy it’s sickening and Linda, whilst a smidge more complex, is just as doughy. And since there isn’t a lick of a zing in either of them the void had to be filled by a foul-mouthed Marino (who also co-wrote the script). If it can be called stealing the show, he does it, laying down a few (and I mean few) memorable, funny lines.
In terms of smut, however, there’s a lot of it. Unfortunately, the nudity presented is now passé and not anything I’m interested in seeing. This rated-R comedy is full of floppy penises and close-ups on old, flabby women. Yes, before you ask, I am mature enough to handle the human body in all its forms, but I would have preferred the hotties in the flick to bare some more skin to at least balance the scales. (The cutting of the rumored Aniston lesbian scene with Malin Akerman is even more disappointing).
Nonetheless, Wain was confident behind the camera. The movie has simple, yet effective, direction. While not groundbreaking, the editing and shots compliment the characters and what humor there is. There’s a nice fluidity to it all, only interrupted by a couple of awkward moments between George and Eva (Akerman), the commune’s bombshell, which are too long and have zero payout (Again, what’s the point of casting a European model if you’re not willing to show off her bod?).
Ultimately, Wanderlust meanders too deep in a time warp. Far too much of its running time is spent on parodying stereotypes that have been dead since, at least, the ’80s. If the film had been released around then I wouldn’t have walked out of the cinema more saddened by my wasted cash than uplifted by this “humorous” story of self-discovery.