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Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 30.43%
Just Average: 8.7%
Pretty Crappy: 8.7%

2 reviews, 11 user ratings

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by Brett Gallman

"Wain charts the course, Rudd provides the rudder."
4 stars

Paul Rudd is one of our best modern comedic talents, if only for his versatility. We’ve seen him play everything from world-weary, everyman straight characters (“Dinner for Schmucks”) to impossibly brash human tornados (“Wet Hot American Summer”), and they’ve been charming all the same. Even when he’s threatening to inflict bodily harm on children in “Role Models,” it’s difficult to dislike him, and, if that film and “Wet Hot” are any indication, Rudd and writer/director David Wain should probably be contractually obligated to make a movie every couple of years. “Wanderlust” is a film that only strengthens this argument, as Wain now takes a more straight-laced Rudd and plops him into a world that feels like a bizarre sketch comedy.

Rudd is George, a guy who has eked out a moderately successful life in New York City that’s just allowed he and his wife, Linda (Jennifer Aniston), to buy a “microloft” (which is just a fancy word for “studio apartment,” as George so adamantly points out). Not long after this, everything that can go wrong does go wrong--George loses his job, Linda’s documentary pitch doesn’t go over with HBO, and the two are forced to move to Atlanta, where George’s brother (Ken Marino) offers him a job. This proves to be suburban hell, as Marino plays the type of guy who’s proud of his empire that’s built upon his port-a-potty business. He’s thinks he’s cool as he sings along to modern, generic cock rock and cheats on his wife (Michaela Watkins, who is perfectly frazzled and neurotic).

All of this sets up the film’s eventual punch-line--George and Linda shacking up at a hippie commune called Elysium--but “Wanderlust” really comes out of the gate swinging. That punch-line is funny and is almost ruthlessly run into the ground, but you can sense the madcap energy of “Wanderlust” from the opening scene, where Rudd and Aniston have to talk themselves into squeezing into this tiny apartment, an exchange that can’t end without a joke about a blind guy’s sex life. There’s nary a scene that doesn’t feel like it couldn’t stand alone as its own separate sketch, which is typically a detriment; here, though, it works in the same way “Wet Hot” works since it sort of overpowers you with its broad material.

This is to say that “Wanderlust” flings a lot at you, and, like any juvenile flinging, some material sticks to the wall and some doesn’t. Wain empties out his palette and delivers outrageous silliness, biting satirical chops, gross-out gags, and even a little sweetness. “Wanderlust” veers closer to “Role Models” in that respect, but that manic quality of “Wet Hot American Summer” is present and only has to chug to a halt anytime conflict (and the film’s actual plot) arises. And the conflict here is an obvious one, as George begins to have trouble adapting to life at Elysium, with the “free love” and his inability to take a shit in private being high on the list of troublesome quirks.

We’d probably see these things as being impossibly problematic as well if Elysium weren’t full of so many colorful, well-meaning characters. Their leader is Seth (Justin Theroux), a furry, Christ-like bro figure who always seems to be putting on a show--when he goes especially big, he’s even inflecting this strange parody of Sean Connery, I think. He’s a little too inviting and maybe a little bit too obviously slimy as he invites the couple to leave behind a modern world dominated by “fax machines,” “laserdiscs,” and “The Arsenio Hall Show.” He’s surrounded by similarly memorable goofballs--an impossibly sexy woman (Malin Akerman), a nudist (Joe Lo Truglio, whose penis often offers comic relief), and a zany, smoked out matriarch (Kerry Kenney). Even Alan Alda shows up as Elysium’s founder, whose acid-washed brain has never left 1971. Wain lets his cast have a ball and never really loses sight of them, even when he’s off having bizarre, funny asides (one involving a wildly misogynist TV newsroom feels like a hilarious spin-off of “Anchorman”).

Caught up in this whirlwind of insanity is Rudd, who is both fazed but unfazed all at once. He endures a host of indignities--his wife’s bad peyote trip, the denigrations of his asshole brother, among other things--but he always emerges with that trademark affability, and it’s easy to stay on his side because he tries really, really hard to throw in with the crowd at Elysium. There’s a scene that features only himself and his reflection as he prepares himself for the long-awaited sexual encounter with Akerman’s character that’s incredible in its sheer goofiness. It’s sort of indicative of “Wanderlust” as a whole because it takes one idea (Rudd’s various contortions of sexual epithets) and absolutely runs with it as Rudd wrings and stretches his face comically.

For all of its insanity, “Wanderlust” does manage to stay a little well-mannered and tidy; there’s never any sense that things won’t work out okay for everyone. When Elysium comes under siege from a local casino just as George and Linda’s relationship begins to crumble, you can feel the mechanizations beginning to wrap it up neatly. Lessons are to be learned, and the one here is obvious--you have to find your happiness no matter where it is, but the moment of realization at least gets planted over a funny lunch conversation between Aniston and Alda before fully blossoming in a raucous climax that involves a vehicle being dumped into a lake. As wild as that sounds, “Wanderlust” does let the sweetness win out--it doesn’t go for the big, brazen (and great) “fuck you” ending of “Wet Hot American Summer,” but that’s okay since Wain earns it by grounding these ridiculous characters with a gentle humanity that allows us to hope for the best.

“Wanderlust” is a bit uneven, but it deftly treads the lines between overbearing quirk, low-brow stupidity, and perceptive irony. Even if it stumbles into narrative clichés, there are still many moments of brilliance to be found along the way, most of them with Rudd, who continues to shine.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21692&reviewer=429
originally posted: 02/25/12 01:23:34
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User Comments

11/28/13 Monday Morning Hey Daniel Kelly, lighten up you flaming asshole. Bet you liked Sophie's Choice, huh? 4 stars
9/15/13 Joe Smaltz Embarrassingly tedious painfull to watch 2 stars
11/26/12 Flipsider A decent farce, hit and miss comedy. 3 stars
3/14/12 Caroline Drake Why the title? They're drifting with the winds of fate, not acting on any wanderlust. 1 stars
3/14/12 puddleduck A complete failure...not one laugh to be had. How can Hollywood churn out such such shit? 1 stars
3/09/12 WHAT's with these "USA" comments???? If you can remember the sixties, thank god this crap wasn't there! 1 stars
3/08/12 Lenny Zane "Commune" as obnoxious as one in OUR IDIOT BROTHER but somehow portrayed sympathetically. 1 stars
3/08/12 Apollo Aniston's career has now officially "jumped the shark" 1 stars
3/07/12 Cheryl Mayfield Pretty crappy, but seeing Jennifer Aniston wiping her butt with a leaf was worth it. 2 stars
3/07/12 Priscilla Postlethwaite Would rather seen Jenifer Aniston clobber harpy who yelled"Lies!" 'fore she started talking 1 stars
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  24-Feb-2012 (R)
  DVD: 19-Jun-2012


  DVD: 19-Jun-2012

Directed by
  David Wain

Written by
  Ken Marino
  David Wain

  Jennifer Aniston
  Paul Rudd
  Malin Akerman
  Lauren Ambrose
  Justin Theroux
  Alan Alda

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