I’m not sure if the world needed a movie to put those damn hippies in their place, or needed to introduce us to the culture of nude wine-making, or why the name is Wanderlust when the characters stay in one place, but no matter.
Paul Rudd plays George, a 30/40-something someone (this is where I’d mention his job, but it’s never made clear), and his wife Linda (Jennifer Aniston), another 30/40 with a sordid and varied resume; her latest occupation is hocking a documentary she made about penguins with testicular cancer to HBO. They usefully inform her that it could use more sex, violence, and vampires.
George and Linda have recently purchased an expensive and tiny apartment in Manhattan, only for George to lose his job and Linda to, predictably, get tossed out of HBO for her lousy doc. So, unemployed and destitute in New York, they high-tail it to Georgia to stay with George’s brother Rick (Ken Marino). On the way, they stop overnight at Elysium Fields, an ostensible bed and breakfast, but really a hippie commune run by well-aged toker Carvin (Alan Alda), and featuring nudist wine-maker Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio), spacey moonchild Kathy (Kerri Kenney-Silver), eye candy Eva (Malin Akerman) and all-around douche Seth (Justin Theroux).
Despite their initial misgivings, George and Linda eventually fall in love with the place, and blah, blah, blah land developers, blah, blah, blah free love, blah, blah, blah topless protest, SkyMall, local news team, Chinese dentist.
The plot isn’t very important, as the writer/director, David Wain, and his co-writer Marino, along with Kenney-Silver and Truglio come from the MTV sketch show The State, and stick to their comfort-zone with routines instead of a story. It’s not as incohesive as their other film The Ten, but it’s not very far from it.
Nor is it as nasty. Even though I didn’t laugh very often, I enjoyed it much more than something like Tower Heist because Wanderlust actually has an interest in and appreciation for its characters. Sure, the movie may mock their beliefs, but there’s a sweetness to their love of playing the didgeridoo at 3 am or tendency to drive cars into the lake. At the very least, it doesn’t try to push a half-assed message or lazily generate some sympathy when it’s not needed.
It does, however, have the tendency to stick with some jokes long after the humor’s been exhausted, providing it was there in the first place. For example, early on George and Linda are going over the details of their apartment with the realtor, who insists that it’s not a studio, it’s a micro-loft. Nice. But then they start arguing semantics, reinforcing the joke, and, five minutes later, are having the same argument. Later in the film, George and Linda discover that their room has no door, prompting another long discussion. And any scene where Paul Rudd dwells upon all the unsavory things he plans to do to Akerman is pretty painful to watch. Yes, you can replace nouns with non-sequitors, and it’ll sound weird, we get it. And Alan Alda’s character’s habit of listing all the founders of Elysium Fields. And Truglio’s nudity. And Theroux’s outright obnoxiousness. And…
Yeah. At the worst, it’s very uneven—the funniest scene in the film is when the local news team covers a topless protest, and three of the news men creepily urge their female co-worker to follow suit—at best, it’s not nearly as bad as the other films IMDB associates it with (The Change-Up, What’s Your Number?). Better to hold out hope for more Party Down.