Every now and then a movie comes along that seems to be not the product of slavish devotion or tireless drive, but rather the end result of a phone call on a lazy Sunday afternoon. "Hey, want to make a movie with a bunch of our talented friends? It'll be kind of funny, I promise." The person on the other end of the line yawns and agrees, slipping back into the warm haze of the day, smiling to themselves. Wanderlust is just such a movie.
Linda (Jennifer Aniston) and George (Paul Rudd) are a happily married couple in New York, caught up in the rat race and placing too much importance on material things. When they're forced to leave their hectic harried life due to financial ruin and unemployment, they decide to move in with George's asinine brother (Ken Marino) down in Atlanta. On the drive there, they detour and discover a peaceful commune called Elysium. The couple is completely taken with the strange people who live there (Nudist wine makers! Sexually free pretty ladies! Strange and wonderful cult-like leaders!) and their kooky way of life and decide to stay a while. Will George and Linda discover that they can thrive in this different way of life, and will that be enough for them?
Wanderlust is produced by Judd Apatow and directed by David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models) and is definitely in that same vein, though never approaching the brilliance of Wet Hot American Summer. Wain moves the story right along, never lingering long enough for us to become bored or disgusted, but there's also barely enough substance to keep us sated.
There's a few laughs to be found here, depending on how funny you find nudity, alcoholism, drug use and infidelity. Everything is played for laughs here, from the soul-searching moments to the heart-felt realizations, and for the most part it works. A word of warning, there is a lot of nudity in this film, and only a small portion of it is the sexy kind. The rest is simply there, dangling in your face time and again. There's nothing too over-the-top, or perhaps I've simply become entirely desensitized, but watching George and Linda cope with the magnitude of their life changing decisions and deal with their weird new life is mildly amusing even at the worst of times.
Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd are charming enough as the kooky couple looking for their own peace of mind, but the beauty and power of Wanderlust is found in the diversity of the supporting cast, from the positively inspired madness of zany commune leader Seth, played brilliantly by Justin Theroux, to the relentlessly naked Joe Lo Truglio, and the elderly instigator Alan Alda. The really fun parts are spotting various Wet Hot American Summer actors, or MadTV alum such as Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. With such a large ensemble cast there's very little time to get bored with any one character, which is a bonus I suppose since none of the characters are terribly original or interesting.
While there's a lot that rings true about George and Linda's journey towards finding contentment in their lives and with each other, Wanderlust isn't really built for the long haul, especially when it comes to a closer consideration of what it means to truly live well and love others in the process. Wanderlust is a workable comedy that will delight many people. While nothing unexpected occurs, it's still fun to watch. It definitely sweeps you along for a ride, and it's a fine ride, not the best ride ever, but good enough.