By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
The movie’s title is erroneous. “Wanderlust,” defined as “a strong desire to travel,” has nothing to do with this tragic comedy. But by the film’s end, the term Wanderlust perfectly encapsulates our unyielding urge to flee as far away from this bohemian bomb as possible.
Rather than wandering out of desire, Paul Rudd’s George and Jennifer Aniston’s Linda find themselves forced to leave high-priced Manhattan. After having sunk their last penny in an exorbitant yet tiny Greenwich Village studio, George loses his job when the financial firm he works for collapses overnight, his boss escorted off the premises in handcuffs. On the same day, when Linda attempts to sell her first documentary to HBO – a piece about penguins with testicular cancer – her work is summarily rejected. (Bringing to mind an idle curiosity: Just how quickly would HBO have rejected Wanderlust?) Subsequently, George and Linda pack up their car and drive to Atlanta, where George’s vile brother Rick (Ken Marino, doing double-duty as co-writer) has a large McMansion and a low-level waste-management job set aside just for George. But on the way to Rick’s, the couple stop at a B&B, only to discover that the place is a 1970s hippie commune called Elysium. After spending a blissful, pot-infused night with a house full of wacky folks, they yearn to return, especially since Rick and his alcoholic wife (Michaela Watkins, giving one of the film’s better comedic performances) immediately make the ex-Manhattanites’ lives a living hell. And so, a-boomeranging back to Elysium we go.
While there are some fairly funny bits in the opening, such as the HBO rejection scene and the road trip sequence, all that falls apart once Elysium stumbles into view. Suddenly, we’re thrown into an overextended and graceless Saturday Night Live skit. Rather than real people, the Elysium denizens are nothing more than ha-ha-ha silly folks wearing hippie clothes. We spend most of the film with them but learn very little; they only open their mouths in order to offer up one more random, unfunny joke. Playing the ex-porn star, the pregnant redhead and her dutiful mate (Kathryn Hahn, Lauren Ambrose and Jordan Peele, respectively), these talented actors are stuck with the challenge of trying to mine cartoon characters.
As for the leads, who starred together 14 years ago in The Object of My Affection, they have a lovely chemistry going for them in the first act. But that, too, falls by the wayside. Without strong direction, Mr. Rudd is woefully lost, particularly in the scene where he attempts to rehearse his seduction of Malin Ackerman’s resident hottie. We watch him carry on for an eternity as he practices in a mirror, turning into a hayseed with an ever-growing twitch. Why? No reason we can glean, except that in all probability the filmmakers must have thought it was hysterical. Good for them. We wish we could share in the joke. Aniston, however, isn’t all that injured by this fluff; instead, she manages to find moments to invest with a delicious joy. Now all she needs is a decent vehicle (and no, not the one that’s stuck in the lake, providing not one but two idiotic bits).
Per director/co-writer David Wain on his and Mr. Marino’s process: “Several years ago, we decided, ‘Let’s just go into a room and not leave until we’ve written the first draft of a screenplay,’ … we gave ourselves seven days, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. We did that, and out of it came The Ten, which was released in 2007. When we tried it again, the result was a very early version of Wanderlust.” Given that The Ten received a critic aggregate score of 37% out of 100%, and grossed under $1M domestic, with an additional whopping $15.8K foreign, perhaps repeating this methodology was a tad ill-advised. Or, to quote Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
The result here: Ramble on. The sooner the better.
Rating on a scale of 5 wilted flower children: 1.5
Release date: February 24, 2012
Directed by: David Wain
Written by: Ken Marino & David Wain
Cast: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman, Kathryn Hahn, Lauren Ambrose, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Jordan Peele, Michaela Watkins, Linda Lavin, Alan Alda
Running Time: 98 minutes