You know that feeling when a comedy has just elicited an unexpected howl of laughter from you? The kind that has you momentarily breathless from the sheer pleasurable violence of it?
Well, that's not something you'll experience while watching David Wain's Wanderlust, a movie that really wants to make you laugh but very seldom succeeds. At its best, it is funny in a smile-and-nod-appreciatively kind of way. It is only rarely laugh-out-loud funny.
The comic mindset of writer-director Wain and his collaborator, Ken Marino, could be considered a concentric circle with that of Judd Apatow, who was a producer on this film. But the Wain-Marino playbook is a mix of crudely embarrassing moments and scenes of outrageous, if not necessarily inspired, silliness.
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play George and Linda, who decide to escape from New York when he loses his job after they've sunk everything into a West Village studio apartment ("A micro-loft," corrects the wonderfully dry Linda Lavin, as their realtor). They head for Atlanta, where his moronic and crude brother (Marino) runs a porta-potty business and offers to put him to work.
On their way down to Georgia, however, they stop at Elysium, which they think is a bed-and-breakfast, but which turns out to be a commune. When things quickly turn sour at George's brother's house, George finds himself drawn back to the laidback, alternative environment of Elysium. Linda promises to give it two weeks, dubiously.
Unfortunately, most of the funniest bits of this film already are in the commercials and the trailer. Certainly there's not a gamer comic actor working than Paul Rudd, but replaying that scene of him dealing with a communal approach to bathroom trips is above and beyond.
For a wittier look at dropping off the grid after years in the rat race, track down Albert Brooks' brilliant Lost in America. For a darker, funnier take on the clash of values between the modern-day hippie and the modern-day striver, catch Rudd in the overlooked My Idiot Brother. Like Wanderlust, that film features actress Kathryn Hahn as a passive-aggressive back-to-Earther. Hahn is a really funny actress, who deserves roles as smart and sexy as the one she had on her recent (and undeservedly short-lived) TV show, Free Agents.
Hippie jokes, bathroom jokes, free-love jokes, a naked guy running around: It doesn't get much more premeditatedly wacky than this. The desperation shows in Wanderlust, but the laughs never turn up.
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