In order for you to even moderately enjoy Wanderlust, you have to possess two things: a fondness for David Wain’s films and the ability to get comedic enjoyment out of Paul Rudd playing Paul Rudd.
My possession of these two attributes is often outweighed by a sense of overindulgence and annoyance, but if you can sit back and enjoy, then Wanderlust should make for an amusing 98 minutes.
In the film, married New Yorkers, George and Linda (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) flee the city after a string of failures to live with George’s brother, Rick (Ken Marino) in Atlanta. But because Rick is such a perverse, two-timing asshole, the love birds decide to shack up at Elysium, a nearby commune that they recently discovered. The practices at Elysium are simple: everyone shares everything (lovers included), no meat is consumed, marijuana and other psychotropic substances are ingested regularly; basically, no bad vibes, no bad karma, it’s all about love.
Watching George and Linda get acclimated to Elysium’s customs proves to be rather amusing. And the commune’s troupe of characters produces nothing short of comedic bliss. The wildly underrated Justin Theroux hams it up as Elysium’s “leader,” Seth, while Malin Akerman, Lauren Ambrose, Alan Alda, Joe Lo Truglio, and more, all help move the story along. And then the inevitable happens: Wain, never a filmmaker to trust his instructs, feels the need to introduce a useless plot halfway through the film (about how rich moguls want to purchase the land Elysium rests on to build a casino), and from here on out, the jokes become as stale as the story.
Look, Wain’s previous films (including Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten, and Role Models) all have their moments, but they never know when enough is enough. They always start with fresh originality, then slowly ruin themselves with formula. He has a few very funny core people that are always involved in his projects (Marino, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, to name a few), but I wish they relied more on the jokes to pass the time.
And as for Rudd, well, that’s a battle I’ve been in the minority on for quite some time. Rudd, much like Woody Allen, only knows how to play one character. Sometimes it works, most of the time it just gets old quickly. I often find myself tuning him out without even realizing it. It’s a shame that so many (American) comedy actors think they have to play the same character over and over for the audience to respond positively.
Oh well, like I said, if you dig Wain and Rudd, Wanderlust is going to work for you. If you’re like me, you’ll just be wishing it was over long before it is. C-