Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wanderlust - 2012

"Wanderlust" - 2012
Dir. by David Wain - 1 hr. 38 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I'm going to get straight to the point, here.  I think I've seen this film before.  No, I don't mean that there's some film out there that "Wanderlust" has copied, nor have I literally been in the theatre to see this film at an earlier date.  My problem is that this film seems to be cobbled together out of leftover pieces of earlier Paul Rudd films.  There's the hippie aspect of "My Idiot Brother," and the same character story arc that he's played over and over again (stable situation goes unstable, he ends up blowing up at everyone, and then has to learn to adapt and appreciate those around him as they are).  I really, really wanted to like this movie going in, but it just didn't quite happen.

George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are New Yorkers, and banking on their future success finally take the plunge into buying a "micro-loft."  Naturally, this being a comedy, both are doomed to immediate failure (Linda's meeting with HBO over a documentary about penguins with testicular cancer quickly descends into a hilarious boiling down of what HBO seems to be interested in, while George's company is seized by the feds, plunging him into unemployment).  They flee the city for George's brother's (Ken Marino) place in Atlanta, but stop over at a B&B called "The Elysium" on the drive down.  It's an "intentional community," and they have the time of their life.  Hesitantly, they continue on their journey to the brother's house, but end up boomeranging right back to the Elysium when the living situation in Atlanta quickly goes south.

There is a lot of funny material here; while it would be very easy to eviscerate the hippie lifestyle (something a less sympathetic portrayal likely wouldn't have hesitated to do), and especially through the somewhat cynical Rudd character, it's shown as a sort of absurdity that works for the people involved.  On the surface, a nudist vintner (Wayne, played by Joe Lo Truglio) who also is working on a novel sounds silly and stupid, and the humor that would likely arise from that character would be cruel and centered on detachment from reality rather than from someone earnestly striving to accomplish their goals.  And there are probably half a dozen of these characters, each in their own distinct vein, and there's an honest attempt not to make the easy jokes.  They may be largely hazy, vague, and overly concerned with nature and all of that hooey, but they're still people (albeit with a higher quirk quotient than most would be comfortable accommodating), and that level of effort is deeply appreciated.

Unfortunately, I feel like this is a film that punishes you if you're familiar with Rudd's work.  In particular, if you've seen "Role Models" or "Knocked Up," his character arc is going feel very familiar.  Then, if you throw that character into "My Idiot Brother," (the actress that plays his ex-girlfriend in that film, Kathryn Hahn, plays an identical character in this film) you've got a pretty direct hit on what's going on here.  Looking back over his body of work, I'm not sure why I reacted so strongly to the repetition of certain elements.  It's not as if he's been doing exactly this kind of work for decades (and the supporting characters are memorable and funny, and co-star Aniston is game and able for her role), but "Wanderlust" isn't a movie that I'd necessarily want to watch again.  Whatever positive points that "Wanderlust" has to offer, I feel like there are other films that in Rudd's career that do each of those things better.

2.5 / 5 - Theatre

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