If you think “American Pie” was too classy and the Three Stooges too intellectual, “Wanderlust” just might be the tour de farce you’ve been waiting for all these years.
George and Linda, played by Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, are stereotypical New Yorkers: Delusional and living beyond their means when their world collapses. Their purchase of a closet-sized “mini-loft” eats up all their savings, HBO won’t buy Linda’s documentary about penguins with testicular cancer, and George’s somehow-financially-related company gets shut down by the Feds. Fortunately, one would think, George’s brother offers him a job in his Atlanta-based port-a-potty empire. On the trip down, the hapless couple pulls in for the night at the Elysium Bed & Breakfast. Yeah, it does give it away that they are greeted by a hapless nudist wearing what HAS to be a schlong-extension but that doesn’t keep them from deciding to get stoned with the denizens of this commune and to enter into the mindless pseudo-hippie activities of these mindless pseudo-hippies. If the rest of the story matters to you, you shouldn’t have come to this movie but, basically, George and Linda travel on to Atlanta in the morning only to find that George’s brother is a bigger creep even than George thought and decide to head back to Elysium. Merriment and offensiveness ensue. A bunch of things happen, few of which make any sense, and George and Linda find a way to exploit their fellow commune members and either (a) move back to New York, (b) move into Atlanta, or (c) stay in the commune. This reviewer’s best guess is that it’s (b) but she’s not betting any money on it.
This is the second teaming of director David Wain with Paul Rudd, the first being 2008’s “Role Models,” described by rottentomatoes.com as “funny but crude.” Despite the existence of producer Judd Apatow, this latest can be described the same way; the audience seemed to be having a good time but no opportunity for grossness was left unexploited. While Rudd and Aniston are talented actors, there’s nothing here for them really to play, no depth to the characters. Rudd manages to squeeze in a bit of vulnerability and Alan Alda is as good as he’s allowed to be but Jennifer Aniston evokes nothing but sympathy as she fights for her character.
It is funny. But … The real issue here is just how much reality a viewer should be forced to suspend for a laugh. In any house o’ hippies, for instance, there must be a heavily pregnant young girl who gives birth naturally. It’s one of the laws. In this house o’ hippies, Mom and Dad carry the placenta, still attached to the baby, around in a mixing bowl until it drops off naturally. Schlong Boy rewrites a novel in a day. The house lothario is so out of touch with modern times that he thinks he can buy a condo in Florida for 11 grand. The major plot of the film – that greedy developers are stealing the commune’s land because said house lothario sold the only copy of the deed to said land to said developers – completely ignores the numbers and stamps that the art department carefully put on the deed to show that it’s been recorded with the authorities which means that the deed is available in the county records office.
Perhaps the biggest disregard for reality is shown in the film’s trailer. Two of the clips are about sex scenes, both featuring Aniston – one of them an all-girl foursome, which aren’t in the film itself, not even in the blooper reel at the end.
Laugh. You may as well. The filmmakers are laughing at you not with you.