(No longer in theaters)
Feb 24, 2012
In the exuberant comedy Wanderlust, unemployed Manhattan couple George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) stumble into a hippie-dippie hallucinogen-imbibing farming commune with free love and no doors, even on bathrooms. It’s not fresh terrain for satire, yet most of the jokes play riotously well. In part that’s because, deep down, many of us still embrace the fantasy of freeing ourselves from the oppressive social network and crushing fear of job loss by becoming flower children, working the land, and gazing on long-haired girls in tie-dyed dresses atop white steeds while affable, hairy men strum guitars and offer weed: It’s the great American (hash) pipe dream. But Wanderlust mostly works because of another kind of collective: marvelous clowns who groove on the chance to turn Utopia dystopian.
Director David Wain, who wrote the script with Ken Marino, sticks to two comic principles: The lewd subtext must never stay sub- but be blurted out at the first, most appalling opportunity, and the joke must be extended for many beats longer than expected. This means we watch George, the straight-arrow naïf, labor to remain amiable in the face of outlandish boho declarations—that money literally, not metaphorically, buys nothing (literally); that monogamy is picking a fight with your body’s “sexual chi,” driving it inward and bringing death—while his unseen sphincter clenches and unclenches. Rudd might not be the subtlest straight man in movies, but, as of this moment, he’s the best. His tremulous deadpan makes him a good foil for Aniston, who mugs and overworks her mushy smile, but whose mugging mushiness works beautifully for the overeager Linda.
The zanies of Wanderlust include Kerri Kenney-Silver as a blissed-out motormouth, flowing redhead Lauren Ambrose as an imminent mother mystically buoyed by her swollen belly, and formidably rubber-faced Kathryn Hahn as a Cassandra whose feelers are scarily sensitive to bad vibes. Alan Alda continues his triumphantly cranky post-leading-man career as the commune’s last remaining founder, who fulminates against capitalism from his wheelchair. Looming largest is Justin Theroux as a woolly-bearded, mellow manly man who mentally undresses Linda on first sight. Wanderlust, from the Judd Apatow factory, has a lame coda and lamer outtakes over the closing credits. But by that point, nothing can bust its groove.