Posted on February 24, 2012 at 8:07 am

It is painful to watch Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, who were superb together in “The Object of My Affection,” try to make the most from the fourth-rate Judd Apatow gross-out comedy “Wanderlust.”  It wastes a situation filled with comic potential as we have seen in films like “Lost in America,” forgoing sharp satire for lazy jokes even Beavis and Butthead would find beneath them.  Unless you think that seeing a bunch of saggy naked old people running or a doorless bathroom is hilarious, stay away.

Rudd plays George, a Wall Street guy married to Linda (Aniston), a film-maker who hopes to sell her new documentary about penguins to HBO.  They have just spent all their money buying a “mini-loft,” a microscopic studio apartment with a Murphy bed.  Linda Lavin makes a welcome appearance as their realtor, her impeccably dry delivery making even a raunchy line sound crisp.  George’s firm collapses and Aniston’s film is rejected for being too depressing (they can’t come up with a better joke than a film about penguin testicular cancer? and HBO saying they might be interested if it had vampires?), they have to leave New York for Atlanta, where George’s brother has promised him a job.  The movie’s best scene is the sharply edited driving montage, as George and Linda alternate being sad and angry with the inevitable road trip sing-along to the Doobie Brothers.

George’s brother Rick (co-screenwriter Ken Marino) is a loudmouth vulgarian who lives in a hideously sterile McMansion with his substance-addled wife Marisa (Michaela Watkins, who was a hilarious Hoda Kotb on “SNL”).  It isn’t enough that Rick is crass and obnoxious.  He has to be in the port-a-potty business.  George and Linda can’t stand it, and decide to return to the place where they spent the night on the drive down, an “intentional community” run by a charismatic leader named Seth (Justin Theroux).  Everything seems idyllic, filled with peace, harmony, and sharing.  Linda is very happy, even after the “tea” they give her in the Truth Circle causes her to hallucinate that she can fly.  But George starts to feel vulnerable and jealous, especially when the sharing extends to having sex with other partners.

The film-makers did much better with Rudd’s “Role Models,” which had a central sweetness and benefited from a storyline that had the adults more immature than the children and a rousing KISS-inspired RPG finale.  This movie’s jokes are as tired and saggy as its aging nudists.  It is painful to see talented performers Watkins, Lauren Ambrose (radiantly beautiful as an ur-mother-to-be), Alan Alda (as the community’s founder), and Kathryn Hahn (who was wonderful with Rudd in “How Will I Know”) trying so hard to make the dismal script funny.  Idiotic low points include a childbirth scene, Rudd’s attempts to psych himself up for his first non-marital sexual encounter, a topless protest against casino developers (calm down, boys, Aniston is pixilated), and plot developments that make no sense whatsoever.  It would be fatal to the movie that even the slackest attempts at characterization are jettisoned to flail at some inconsistent comic possibility if the movie wasn’t already DOA.

Parents should know that this movie includes extremely crude and explicit sexual references and situations, male and female nudity, potty humor, explicit childbirth scene, very strong and crude language, marijuana and hallucinogens.

Family discussion:  How did George and Linda respond differently to the experience of the intentional community?  What did they learn from the Truth Circle?

If you like this, try: “Role Models” and “Flirting With Disaster”

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3 Replies to “Wanderlust”

  1. I will not be seeing this film. Anything by the Apatow Production Group is not acceptable. It is very obvious that the filmmakers used the same old, worn out raunchy comedy style. They lack the creativity and courage to “push the envelope” in any other direction for fear of reprisal from some. Their handling of Aniston borders on comical to just plain sad as an example as why they are unable or unwilling to change their style. Until Apatow and his filmmakers have any idea as to what I would want to see, they will not be getting any of my money.

  2. I (Sociology CSU Chico 1987) took my wife to see Wanderlust (Photography UC Santa Cruz 1975) and she found it to be far more delightful than the review given here. I recognized it’s intent to drive out those who don’t share the California values of tolerance. The naked chase and crash scene (flolows the road montage) was made more hilarious by the departure of those who came specifically to walk out in rudeness. And what crude language? There wasn’t any which would have been mean enough to bother me! Only the body language of the departing intolerant. A better movie than this review.

    1. Thanks, Eightcats — I am always glad to hear from someone who found more to like in a film than I did, though I do object to your implication that my dislike for the film had anything to do with my being less tolerant of communal living and “California values.” On the contrary; I just wish they had been more favorably and accurately or even more humorously portrayed.

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