Release Date: February 24, 2012
Director: David Wain
Writers: David Wain and Ken Marino
Stars: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston and Malin Akerman
MPAA Rating: R
Your enjoyment of Wanderlust will probably hinge on how much you like Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston.
The film centers around a New York couple – George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) – who find themselves unemployed and unable to afford their new apartment. So George must suck it up and move to Atlanta to take a job working for his pompous brother Rick (Ken Marino).
On the drive to Atlanta, George and Linda happen upon a bed and breakfast named Elysium, which turns out to be a commune. After getting fed up with Rick, on a whim George decides to head back to the commune to live, bringing Linda reluctantly along with him.
If you are a fan of Rudd – particularly in his goofier comedic roles like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models – then you will enjoy his role as George. Rudd is a talent actor, but he seems most in his element in ridiculous comedic roles. As George, he is often playing the straight man to the other, wackier characters, but he still gets some great comedic moments himself. One of the funniest scenes in the film is Rudd alone in front of a bathroom mirror trying to psych himself up for something. It is an amazingly funny and very painful scene to watch unfold.
But while he gets a lot of laughs, Rudd is also the emotional core of the film. Rudd needs to be able to sell this bizarre idea of giving up on his regular life and moving into this commune, which he is able to do. We need George as the character we can relate to in order to ground the film and make the other, more outlandish characters work. Rudd is able to do that, which allows the rest of the film to work.
Linda is a more problematic character. Since Paul is the protagonist, the audience is more prone to side with him. And as the film unfolds, Linda makes a series of decisions that are against Paul, including one major decision. While the film does a good job explaining why she makes these choices and showing how Paul’s actions facilitated them, it still makes it difficult to sympathize with Linda.
If you are a fan of Aniston, you will probably be able to see things from her character’s point of view and to understand Linda’s actions. But if you aren’t a big fan of Aniston going into the film, the writing makes her a tough character to like. The major decision she makes, which sets up a number of plot elements both comedically and thematically, is likely to alienate her from a lot of viewers.
The supporting cast is quite enjoyable. Fans of The State and of Wet Hot American Summer will recognize a lot of the people living at Elysium. Joe Lo Truglio steals all of the scenes he’s in as Wayne, the nudist/aspiring political thriller novelist. Kerri Kenney is also quite enjoyable as Kathi, another one of the odd inhabitants of Elysium. Malin Akerman is great as Eva, a free spirit who nonchalantly tells George she’d enjoy making love to him. Lauren Ambrose, Kathryn Hahn and Jordan Peele do a great job rounding out the Elysium cast.
Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain all have cameos in the film as obnoxious anchormen who harass Jessica St. Clair’s anchorwoman character as she’s trying to deliver a story.
Wain does a good job balancing the sillier elements like the newscast scene with the overall plot. Unlike Wet Hot American Summer, which felt mostly likely a collection of funny scenes loosely tied together with a threadbare overarcing plot, Wanderlust feels like a cohesive film with occasional silly diversions thrown in there. Having a commune as the setting allows Wain and Marino to present us with outlandish characters, but having George and Linda there too keeps it from being too ridiculous and difficult to relate to.
Your feelings on Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston and David Wain’s comedic style will ultimately determine whether or not you enjoy this film. But if you are a fan of Rudd and Wain and are at least somewhat sympathetic toward Aniston, you should ultimately find this film to be a pleasant bit absurd of comedy.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.