Wanderlust is a movie almost completely devoid of originality. Almost every aspect of it has been seen before, from its jokes about hippies to the style of its directing. It’s one of those films where you can actually see them outlining each kind of joke they need and when it needs to happen. Slow motion naked old people is not still funny, world! On top of the retreaded comedy stylings, the story is also a real stinker, resulting in a film where you’re simply hoping for the next scene that involves Jennifer Anniston and Malin Akerman not wearing bras.
Thankfully that actually happens a lot.
Director: David Wain
Release Date: Feb. 24, 2012
Wanderlust jumps us into the world of New Yorkers George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston). After procuring an expensive apartment, George loses his job, and Linda, who’s never really had a job, fails at her latest attempt to make money. Broke, the two are forced to sell their loft and move to Atlanta to work for George’s jerk brother, Rick (Ken Marino). But a funny thing happens on the way to Atlanta.
The two are driving on the only road in the country where there isn’t a Holiday Inn within 30 minutes and are forced to pull over at a bed and breakfast called Elysium. It turns out it’s actually a commune, and the two have such a wonderful time living the free life, they decide to try staying for two weeks. Initially, it’s George who wants to stay, but those roles quickly reverse as George finds that life isn’t always so fun on the commune, while Linda finds she really likes the laid back lifestyle.
The problem is that the character Linda becomes is completely unbelievable and eventually terribly unlikable. With an R rating, this is supposed to be one of those edgy romantic comedies, but her character simply becomes a bitch and is entirely un-enjoyable until she finally causes the breakup of the two characters by sleeping with someone else after the two supposedly agree to embrace free love. The film attempts to make it seem like it’s both their fault, but she’s really just being terrible, and it pretty much makes any interest in the characters fly out the proverbial window.
I can forgive bad characters (even lead ones) if there’s something else to the film, but Wanderlust‘s comedy just feels old. If this film had been released ten years ago, it may have been fresh, but the adult romantic comedy has been done now, so you’ve got to have some originality to carry your premise. Instead, the jokes revolve around making fun of hippies (which is older than dirt) and cliche tactics to get a laugh out of the audience. There’s even a montage of Paul Rudd doing funny things in the mirror that goes on for way too long until you’re not sure if you’re laughing just because you feel awkward or not. If I haven’t firmly convinced you that the comedy in this film is nothing but cliches, let me just say two words: blooper reel. Yeah, it has one.
However, even cliches can be funny at times, and while those times are pretty few and far between, the film does deliver a laugh here and there. Mostly, they come in the form of Alan Alda, who plays the commune’s founder, but surprisingly, Justin Theroux plays a pretty hilarious hippie until his character also goes off the deep end and starts making no sense at all. It’s just that, even when you are laughing at the jokes that are funny, they still feel stale and overused. Yes, it’s hilarious that hippies are stoners, but not so hilarious that every scene has to use that joke multiple times. This is just stale comedy trying to act fresh by getting an R rating.
Wanderlust is so far beneath Rudd as a comedy guy and Aniston — well, maybe not Aniston. Wherever it sits on their career choice charts, I can’t see anyone looking back and remembering this film. Instead they’ll look back and remember all the films that came before it that had the exact same jokes executed better.