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Wanderlust (2012)

March 26, 2013

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written by: David Wain & Ken Marino

produced by: Judd Apatow, Ken Marino, Paul Rudd &  David Wain

directed by: David Wain

rating: R (for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use)

runtime: 98 min.

U.S. release date: February 24, 2012

DVD/Blu-ray release date: June 19, 2012

 

Airing between 1993 and 1995 on MTV, “The State” was an odd mix of weird characters and skits that helped put an impressive list of comedians in the limelight, including David Wain who’s become a film director — among other things — in the years since. The State crew sticks together though, working together in films like “Wet, Hot American Summer”, “Role Models”, and most recently 2012’s “Wanderlust.

Having bought a micro-loft in New York City, married couple George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are forced to improvise on the fly when George’s financial company is shut down and Linda’s documentary is turned down by HBO. With no money to speak of, the couple heads south to Atlanta to live with George’s brother (Ken Marino), who has also offered him a job at his successful port-a-potty company.  Road tripping south, they stop at Elysium, a bed and breakfast spot they soon learn is a hippie commune. Weirded out at first by the commune’s general freeness with just about everything, George and Linda then start to see that maybe this out of the way place is what they needed. It gets them away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, reconnecting with what brought them together……….or maybe not.

 

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Anyone who’s watched the above-listed movies along with a film like The Ten, comedy groups like Stella and TV shows like “Reno 911” knows that the type of humor the extended “State” group favors is……..odd? Off the wall? Eclectic? Random? Yep, one and all.

The best example is ‘American Summer’ for me – ridiculously stupid and random humor that rises above because it embraces the stupidity. I find the humor hit or miss for the most part though in their other ventures. When a bit works, it can be a home run. When a bit fails, it does so epically. Directing this 2012 comedy that struggled in theaters (making just over $17 million), Wain has that typically odd humor with a solid cast. It starts off strong, producing a fair share of laughs, but it struggles to keep up the energy throughout its 98-minute run time.

What is never in question is the strong casting. Rudd is one of the funniest actors currently working in film and television, and he doesn’t disappoint. It’s not quite a straight man part to the hijinks — he’s given his chances for looniness — but it’s a relatively subdued part. Aniston too is solid if unspectacular, but the duo has some good chemistry together. As George’s well-to-do a-hole brother, Marino is a scene-stealer. He has perfected that jackass part dripping with smarminess, Michaela Watkins playing his spaced-out wife. Also look for Keegan Michael Key as an HBO executive, Todd Barry as George’s jokey co-worker, and an uncredited/unlisted Ray Liotta playing himself in a scene-stealing appearance in the final scene wrap-up.

 

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It’s at Elysium though that the more memorable parts come out, many of them coming from State cast members. Justin Theroux plays Seth, the philosophical Renaissance man running the place with his new-age thinking while Alan Alda plays Carvin, the man who founded Elysium in 1971 and never left. Oh, and acid has torn apart any sort of memory/coherence he has. Just some of the zany folks at the zany commune include Eva (Malin Akerman) who wants to sleep with George, Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio), the nudist winemaker trying to write a novel, Karen (Kathryn Hahn), the hotheaded pacifist, Kathy (Kerri Kenney), the necessarily ultra-odd hippie, and Almond (Lauren Ambrose) and Rodney (Jordan Peele), the white woman dating a BLACK MAN!!!!!

With a whole lot of talent on-screen, much of the humor looks it came from improv. A “truth circle” is a good mix of laughs and drama with a great pay-off courtesy of peyote. The reveal of George playing a didgeridoo with the hippies is similarly a solid pay-off. The hippies rub their fingers together rather than clap because it’s “less aggressive.” Little things like that go a long way, underplayed to perfection. Unfortunately, much of the humor doesn’t lean that way. It’s obvious, even a little self-indulgent like Wain and “Stella”-mates Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black playing a news team with some painfully obvious sexual innuendos. It’s so obvious it takes away the humor.

So while there are laughs, it only takes the movie until around the hour mark. From there on in, the laughs are left by the wayside, and things get more predictable. The supposedly pure Seth has his eyes set on Linda?!? I didn’t see that coming!!!! Worst than that, some of the humor becomes uncomfortable to watch, like Rudd’s improvising dirty talk in front of a mirror is painful. It gets worse later when he tries that with Akerman’s Eve. I became increasingly frustrated with this movie as it went along to the point I actively disliked it at times. It’s never good when the final wrap-up scene is the movie’s highlight, the outtakes over the credits producing the biggest laughs. Capable cast, some funny moments but mostly, a disappointment.

 

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RATING: **

 

 

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