Unreal Movie Review: Wanderlust

Writing on the internet for a living, there’s a deep, dark part of me that sometimes wants to say “screw it” and fry my apartment with an EMP blast and go live in the woods free of technology. Such a radical transition is unlikely for anyone living in the modern world, but Wanderlust imagines what might happen if you embraced a life free of such constraints. Constraints that also include clothes much of the time.

But it’s hard to call Wanderlust anything more than a superficial look at such a lifestyle, as its comparisons of modern life and hippie free love are so over the top, there’s not really an actual point to be made by the end of it.

George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are down on their luck. He loses his job thanks to his boss’s malfeasance, and she has her latest dream shattered as HBO shoots down her documentary about penguins with testicular cancer.

A most fun game of “would you rather.”

They lose their tiny, expensive new Manhattan apartment, and are forced to pack everything they own in a car to trek down to Georgia to live with George’s borderline psychotic brother and his doped up wife. On the way however, when they get in a car wreck caused by an unexpected penis, they discover a magical hippie commune where the residents live a lifestyle they’d never imagined. They must decide between the real world of stress (and money) or the new landscape of freedom (but no doorways).

Rudd and Aniston are a good match here, and I’m surprised we haven’t seen the paired up more often. Neither of them looks a day older than when they were on Friends, and both have what it takes to dive into raunchy R-rated comedy after a string of more tame rom-coms. They push and pull each other in different directions, and their fights and make-ups seem genuine.

Unfortunately, the world that surrounds them is filled with caricatures. That’s fine for a comedy in most cases, but here the hippies are SO over the top, you just want to slap them with an iPhone with a baby seal skin cover. The worst offenders by far however are George’s certifiably insane brother (Ken Marino) and his long suffering wife (Kathryn Hahn) who are cartoonish with how over the top they are in their respective intensity and depression.

He’s like bizarro world Ray Romano.

The only goofball who works is Justin Theroux’s Seth, the hippie leader with Jesus’s hair and beard who lives in a tree and finds himself in love with Jennifer Aniston. Malin Ackerman shows up as eye candy as his “love mate” who expresses a similar desire for George. Things get complicated very quickly.

The film is funny at times, but relies a large amount of the time on crudeness that isn’t particularly clever. Old people running in slow motion with various parts of them flopping about seems like something that would be more at home in a Jackass movie. And there’s a clearly improved sequence that has Paul Rudd talking about his dick in ways that are so out of character and uncomfortable, my skin was crawling.

The whole concept doesn’t strike me as terribly original either, as I’m thinking back to the Tim Allen movie For Richer or Poorer that has him and Kirstie Alley living on an Amish farm. Again, big city slickers who are rid of their technology and stressful lifestyle. That movie had more of a heart to it, and was genuinely funny than just shocking.

The only people who get naked are the ones you don’t want to. Comedy!

Here in Wanderlust, there’s plenty of sex, but little story, other than some typical nonsense about a casino wanting to bulldoze the land. There’s not a clear direction to the film, other than the fact that it aims to wring every laugh out of its cast that it can. Waving boobies and weiners can only take you so far.

Wanderlust is amusing, but forgettable, and will make you hate both hippies and yuppies equally.

2.5 out of 5 stars


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