Review: Wanderlust (2012)

Directed by: David Wain
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux

The land of the R-rated comedy is a trite one these days. On one hand, you have your typically raunchy, periodically tasteless efforts that aim to procure nothing but nonstop laughs via frequent bouts of, for lack of a better term, insanity (The Hangover, Horrible Bosses), and on the other hand you have your decidedly uneven yet similarly hilarious approach (Our Idiot Brother). Given the blatant repetitiveness of the more recent forays into either side of the comedic spectrum, I tend to look for a bit of timely, heartfelt sincerity beneath all the crass one-liners, sexual innuendo and full-frontal male nudity. David Wain’s Wanderlust, coincidentally enough, fits such a description almost perfectly, coupling straightforward laughs with our nation’s ongoing economic turmoil and a couple’s need for a quick fix for their financial problems following a brief stay at an idyllic hippie commune.

While the film’s title insists that George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) sport an inherent desire to travel abroad, Wanderlust instead forces the notion upon the central couple following their expulsion from the hustle and bustle of NYC and the former’s distaste for his brother’s arrogance and unappealingly opulent lifestyle. Following their initial run-in with the free-spirited folks of Elysium, George and Linda mindlessly gather their things and head back to the commune to reside there for an indefinite amount of time until they can decide on the next step to take on their road to monetary salvation. Mingling with oddball tenants galore as the couple becomes increasingly enchanted by this seemingly worry-free lifestyle, George and Linda begin to resent one another as they openly share differing viewpoints on life and what the future has in store for them.

Although Rudd and Aniston themselves openly flaunt their respective comedic chops at regular intervals, the interplay between them and the characature-esque Elysium residents is quite easily the best part about the film outside of its brief instances of semi-heartfelt soul-searching and warranted frustration on George’s behalf. Coupling gut-busting laughs and a requisite amount of crassness with director David Wain’s characteristically prolonged, infinitely more uncomfortable moments, Wanderlust doesn’t fail to deliver in the realm of effective comedy as it not-so-subtly tackles the existential crisis George and Linda are perpetually grappling with throughout a majority of the proceedings. Needless to say, and forgive the repetition, the film is decidedly uneven, using Rudd’s improvisational prowess here and there to liven things up substantially despite how distractingly over-the-top it is, and once you see it for yourself, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

As events begin to unfold somewhat predictably following an agreeably strong first half, Rudd and Aniston themselves exhibit some pretty stellar chemistry during both the film’s less serious and more reflective moments, not quite allowing the absurd supporting characters to perpetually steal the spotlight when it matters most. Justin Theroux as the suave alpha male-type hippie is disarmingly hilarious at frequent intervals, as are the efforts of Joe Lo Truglio and the rest of the supporting cast, ensuring that these over-the-top commune-dwelling stereotypes at least somewhat serve a purpose as George and Linda eventually struggle to reconcile amid differing opinions and undesirable happenings.

Wanderlust, as a fairly successful follow-up to 2008′s Role Models, is a nice, slight change of pace for the director as his trademark style of humor permeates the often off-the-wall script and allows its leads to shine whenever they’re meant to. The overall lopsidedness of the narrative and familiar trajectory it veers toward is a bit off-putting, and the humor itself is agreeably hit-or-miss as jokes range from subtle to just plain ridiculous. All things considered, I laughed a bunch, I sympathized with Rudd’s George and his constant efforts to revert back to the lifestyle he and wife Linda once shared and secretly enjoyed despite their financial woes, and most importantly, I was entertained by a vast majority of the proceedings. It isn’t perfect and is far from a breakthrough in the land of the contemporary R-rated comedy, however the bulk of it’s alternately insightful and appealingly original to at least hold your interest through until its end.

Rating: 6/10

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