Wanderlust Analysis


Paul Rudd as George
Jennifer Aniston as Linda
Justin Theroux as Seth
Alan Alda as Carvin
Malin Akerman as Eva
Ken Marino as Rick
Joe Lo Truglio as Wayne
Kathryn Hahn as Karen
Kerri Kenney-Silver as Kathy
Lauren Ambrose as Almond
Michaela Watkins as Marissa
Jordan Peele as Rodney
Linda Lavin as Shari
Jessica St. Clair as Deena Schuster
Todd Barry as Sherm
Martin Thompson as Dale
Ian Patrick as Grisham
John D’Leo as Tanner
Juan Piedrahita as Paco
Peter Salett as Manfreddie
Patricia French as Beverly

Directed by David Wain

For married couple George and Linda (Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston), their dream of living in New York City and owning an apartment comes to a halt when he loses his job, forcing them to move down to Atlanta with his brother Rick (Ken Marino). Along the way, they stop at the Elysium Bed and Breakfast, a community of hippies led by the charismatic Seth (Justin Theroux) and they become enamored enough with their lifestyle to stay, even though that creates new problems in their marriage.

Way back in an era lovingly known as the ’90s, before MTV was overrun with teen moms and Jersey denizens, a sketch comedy troupe called “The State” found themselves a small but loyal following, though it would take nearly a decade before they would hit the big time. After having a hit comedy with “Role Models,” director David Wain, co-writer Ken Marino and actor Paul Rudd reunite for a comedy that’s far raunchier, taking them back into the incongruous humor of “Wet Hot American Summer” within a comedy more accessible to mainstream audiences.

Much of the latter is due to the presence of Jennifer Aniston, who continues to prove she has a good sense of humor following last year’s “Just Go With It” and “Horrible Bosses” and she shows she can take the raunch the vets of “The State” dish out as well as she can dish it out. Rudd and Aniston are terrific together, really believable as a couple both in the romantic moments and when things start go sour in their relationship, an inevitability once they discover Elysium’s free love policies and both are pursued by attractive potential mates. As actors, they really bring out some great stuff in each other which keeps the movie grounded despite some of the sillier stuff going on around them, and it never veers too far into the realm of the madcap because of this.

Wain surrounds them with a dream cast including the always-great Alan Alda in a role that doesn’t take him too far out of his comfort zone. The same can’t be said about Justin Theroux’s performance as Seth, the ersatz leader of Elysium, which allows him to experiment with some of the film’s more outlandish visual and physical humor.

Wain also makes great use of former “State” pals like Joe Lo Truglia as nudist Wayne who spends much of the movie letting things hang, while Marino himself plays George’s douchey brother, though Marino takes this role a bit more overboard than necessary. Even so, his all-too-familiar interactions with his overly made-up (and constantly soused) trophy wife (Michaela Watkins) balances that out. The true joy comes with the return of Kerri Kenney-Silver, the sole female member of “The State” who proves few other comics (male or female) are able to deliver a deadpan punchline or a reaction as well as she does. It feels like the women of Elysium–Malin Akerman, Katherine Hahn and Lauren Ambrose–generally have stronger scenes with Rudd than the guys.

Unlike “Role Models,” Wain really takes advantage of the R-rating, delving further into raunchy territory producer Judd Apatow has made possible with his earlier hits. Wain also proves himself as the grandmaster of the montage with sequences that take every joke to the highest possible laughs – again, Rudd and Aniston being game for anything is obvious from these sequences including one showing their initial drive down to Georgia. This is all rounded out with a couple fun cameos, most notably Wain himself and his East Coast collaborators doing a news program you’ll want to see more of.

It’s not a perfect comedy by any means, as the story starts getting somewhat mundane once the overused plot device is introduced that has the commune facing corporate suits trying to take away their land and their carefree lifestyle. Some of the raunchier bits do try too hard to go overboard although Rudd is great at selling any gag that requires improvisation. Imagine the “slappin’ da bass” bit from “I Love You, Man” made raunchier with George’s attempt to come on sexually to Akerman’s character and you have a segment that will have you laughing even though you feel you shouldn’t. Unfortunately, the general premise is so simple it can only lead to predictable results which leads to a good amount of third act issues, but it’s saved by a hilarious epilogue that pulls everything back together.

The Bottom Line:
With enough solid laughs you’re likely to leave the theater wondering why they didn’t feature any of them in the commercials–sure, some of if may have been too R-rated even for late night television–“Wanderlust” is very much a hidden comedy gem that will appeal as much to fans of Wain and Rudd’s earlier work together as those who just enjoy good raunchy laughs.