Review: Wanderlust

daniel cohen communes with the new Jennifer Aniston/Paul Rudd comedy …

Plot: When George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston), a married couple living in New York, suddenly find themselves unemployed, they head towards Atlanta, Georgia, where George plans to work for his obnoxious brother Rick (Ken Marino). Along the way, they discover a laid back hippy-esque resort known as Elysium, and consider moving there permanently.

There’s a long-running plotline in this film of how Jennifer Aniston’s character Linda can’t seem to find the right profession, as she’s constantly moving from job to job. That’s what this movie feels like. It has no idea where it wants to go, none of the characters are consistent, and it’s just a very clunky experience. But hey, it’s a comedy, as long as it’s funny, right? While the film occasionally delivers big laughs, it’s plagued with so many dry spells, that the funny stuff doesn’t outweigh the boredom.

So, when you look at the trailer, you probably think the best jokes are going to come from conservatives Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston getting into wild and crazy situations with hippies, right? Wrong! The best jokes in this movie actually stem from when we aren’t in hippy land. There’s a hysterical sequence at the beginning where Linda is trying to sell her depressing penguin documentary to a couple of HBO executives. This scene is so good, I wanted to watch a movie about the two HBO Executives, played by Zandy Hartig and Keegan Michael Key (from the new comedy Key And Peele), but they are sadly only in one scene. There’s also great stuff with George’s douche-bag brother Rick (Ken Marino), and his alcoholic depressed wife (Michaela Watkins). Their dialogue is the best written in the film.

Rudd and Aniston also have great comedic chemistry when they’re alone. There’s an especially charming and funny montage of them driving that I particularly enjoyed. Unfortunately, 90% of the film is Rudd and Aniston at this commune, where it’s just stereotypical hippy jokes that aren’t funny, and terrible shock gags that involve male nudity…a lot of male nudity. If they set it up cleverly, that’s one thing, but it’s just for shock. Some of the acting of the ‘hippy’ characters is funny, like the brutally honest in your face Karen, played by Kathryn Hahn, who’s very Melissa McCarthy Bridesmaids-esque, but meaner. But then you get Eva played by Malin Akerman who gives her usual ‘whatever’ performance. Alan Alda is also completely wasted. The laughs were just too inconsistent. Something really funny would happen, but then it would go 15 minutes of dry air. I was ‘meh’ on this movie for the first two acts, but it’s the third act that really brought me down.

 

Paul Rudd, who I’m not the biggest fan of, actually carries this movie fairly well. But he truly humiliates himself twice in the last act. There’s a scene where he’s staring in the mirror trying to psyche himself up for reasons I won’t spoil other then it’s before a sexual encounter. The things he says, and the accents he uses to say them are so fricking awkward and unfunny, it’s just embarrassing. And not only is this scene painful, it doesn’t end. It’s one of the worst comedic moments I’ve seen in the last five years. You really need an absolute top notch comedic actor to pull that stuff off, and Rudd just acted like a D-level Jim Carrey. And not only that, they do the same scene twice within 10 minutes. Rudd should have called the director (David Wain) and told him to cut those scenes out. This was an atrocious display of comedy.

Other than the bad comedy, the third act in general is just awful. The jokes are random, and make absolutely no sense, including one ‘What the hell’ hallucinogenic sequence. And the shock jokes, which I detest to begin with, are ramped up to the point of just being disgusting. There’s also a major character shift involving the Elysium spiritual leader Seth (Justin Theroux) that makes absolutely no sense, other than to find a way to end the movie.

Aside from Akerman and Rudd’s two bad moments, all the actors are trying their best, but the material just isn’t there the majority of the time. I do like Jennifer Aniston, but she is just drowning in these bad roles. I do think there is something greater out there for her. I got some genuine good laughs in this, but there’s just too much dry air, and the jokes get progressively worse, going from just kind of missing to ‘holy crap, that was awful.’ The stuff that works isn’t worth your time.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10 (Passable Entertainment)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.