out of Five
Running time: 98
Frequently amusing, rather than laugh-out-loud funny, this is a watchable comedy that scrapes a pass thanks to likeable comic performances and a handful of decent gags, though it's also entirely predictable and determined to trot out all the same hippie commune jokes that have been around since the 60s.
What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by David Wain (Role Models), Wanderlust stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as George and Linda, a cash-strapped Manhattan couple who find themselves having to leave New York after George loses his job and Linda fails to persuade HBO to pick up her documentary about penguins with cancer. On their way to stay with George's boorish brother Rick (Ken Marino), they accidentally stumble into Elysium, an “intentional community” (i.e. a hippie commune of vegans, nudists, animal lovers, acid casualties and free love types) and decide they want to stay.
Rudd and Aniston (reuniting after 1998's The Object of My Affection) make an appealing couple and both deliver likeable performances, though technically speaking, this is more of a Paul Rudd vehicle than a Jennifer Aniston movie, so he gets more laughs than she does. There's also strong support from a superb comic cast that includes Justin Theroux (as the commune's alpha-male, Seth), Lauren Ambrose (as heavily pregnant Almond), Malin Akerman (as free love enthusiast Eva, who sets her sights on George), Alan Alda (as commune founder Carvin), Kathryn Hahn (as ex-porn star Karen), Joe Lo Truglio (as nudist winemaker Wayne) and Ken Marino, who's very funny as the super-obnoxious Rick.
The script aims for outrageous from the outset (Aniston's ridiculous testicular cancer penguin documentary and Lavin's over-sharing estate agent set the tone early on), rather than attempting to ground the comedy in anything approaching realism. To that end, it's consistently amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny, though there are a couple of very funny moments, such as Rudd attempting to psych himself up to take up Eva's free love offer.
The main problem is that the film seems content to just trot out all the same old hippie commune jokes that have been around since the 1960s (although there is a good running gag about Seth deriding fax machines and walkmans), while the script is entirely predictable and cops out in some frustrating ways. It's also fair to say that several of the jokes fall painfully flat, but the film just about gets away with it because the cast are so likeable.
Wanderlust isn't quite as funny as it thinks it is, but it's never less than watchable thanks to likeable performances from a strong comic cast.