“Wanderlust” is the perfect title for the new Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston comedy because it is a potentially good movie that just gets lost along the way.
The movie starts out strongly with Rudd and Aniston playing George and Linda, a Manhattan couple we meet as they are taking a leap by signing a mortgage on a studio apartment in the West Village.
Linda is a bit of a career vagabond whose latest attempt at documentary filmmaking has gone nowhere fast, a problem that gets compounded when George suddenly loses his job.
Unable to afford their apartment and out of options, the couple pack up their car and head to Atlanta where George’s loudmouthed brother, Rick (Ken Marino, who also co-wrote the script), has offered a job and place to stay.
During their road trip, George and Linda decide to stop at a secluded bed and breakfast, which it turns out is run by members of a rural commune.
George and Linda get caught up in the serenity and good vibes of the place and its oddball population which features, amongst others, a nudist (Joe Lo Truglio), a burnt-out old hippie (Alan Alda, who winds up being the best thing about the movie), and a charismatic leader (Justin Theroux).
The next morning, George and Linda are reluctant to leave, but still, go on to Atlanta to crash with Rick in his overbearing McMansion. Rick is such an insufferable jerk that George and Linda almost immediately turn back around and decide to give commune living a try.
Up to this point, we have a promising and enjoyable movie. The situation is the right combination of goofy and believable, the characters are all well-defined and the audience is primed for the movie to ratchet up the hilarity and insanity.
Unfortunately, “Wanderlust” doesn’t really have anywhere else to go and while it does certainly have its moments the rest of the way out, it just becomes tired and familiar as it fails to live up to its potential.
Naturally, George and Linda start to realize they may have bitten off more than they can chew as we are peppered with jokes about drugs, lack of privacy, and free love that would have seemed more outrageous and inventive in the 1970s.
“Wanderlust” was directed and co-written by David Wain, a veteran of the comedy troupe The State, whose MTV sketch show of the 1990s was, pound-for-pound, one of the funniest of all time and I’ll fight anyone who says different.
Wain’s directorial efforts have been pretty solid, including the brilliantly bizarre cult-classic “Wet Hot American Summer” and the thoroughly enjoyable “Role Models.” Here Wain does deserve some credit for keeping the tone consistent throughout, so as the movie gets increasingly raunchy these moments actually seem organic and not forced for a cheap laugh.
The biggest problem is that even at its best “Wanderlust” is more amusing than out-and-out funny, which makes its handful of swing-and-miss moments all the more glaring.
“Wanderlust” isn’t crimes-against-humanity awful, which is sadly how you could categorize most of Aniston’s most recent comedic efforts, but it is disappointing because there is quite a bit of untapped potential here.
This is the type of movie that you wouldn’t feel too bad about staying up late to watch on cable, but you would likely be riddled with pangs of regret if you dropped 10 bucks to see it at the theater.
“Wanderlust” is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language, and drug use.