George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are a married couple trying to make it in New York and failing majorly at it after George loses his job and HBO somehow decides to pass on Linda’s documentary about penguins with testicular cancer. They are soon forced out of their tiny overpriced “micro-loft” and on the road to Atlanta where George’s obnoxious brother Rick (co-writer Ken Marino) has offered him a job and a place to stay (at the expense of George becoming Rick’s verbal punching bag).
Along the way, they stop for the night at what they think is a quiet bed and breakfast and are instead greeted with the colorful characters of an “intentional community” (don’t call it a commune) called Elysium where clothes are optional and doors do not exist. After the initial fish-out-of-water hijinks ensue, George and Linda wonder if maybe these strange and naked hippies have the right idea about life after all and soon decide to drink the Kool-Aid and embrace the lifestyle.
There haven’t been many notable comedies as of late (insert obligatory Bridesmaids comment here), so when I heard about this film, produced by Judd Apatow, written by Ken Marino and David Wain of among many other credits, The State (The State!!! Oh how I miss pre-Snooki MTV!), and with a supporting cast of sketch-comedy veterans, my hopes were raised. There had to be at least some laughs. And some is better than the 0-5.5 chuckles per 90 minutes most recent “comedies” have been averaging. Final laugh total of Wanderlust? I’m happy to report that I stopped counting even before George and Linda got to Elysium.
Note to penis-prudes, it’s extremely raunchy, crude, and there is a lot of nudity.
Most of it being nudist resort-type nudity rather than porno-nudity, if you get what I’m saying. I should mention here, Jennifer Aniston’s much-hyped topless scene? Pixelated. Sorry guys. There are, however, lots of clear shots of granny-tits.
However, unlike many films that use gross-out humor (cough The Change-Up), in this case it’s actually funny and effective.
Much of what makes Wanderlust work is that it is the product of sketch-comedy writers and performers meaning that many, if not most, of the scenes are improvised. Given the freedom to run with the ridiculousness of the set-up, it’s obvious that everyone involved is having a great time and it translates to the viewer.
The cast couldn’t be any more perfect. Paul Rudd, always a safe bet, reprises his straight-laced persona from I Love You, Man and it works wonderfully in contrast to the wackiness of the off-beat, free-lovin’, tahini-eating hippies. Thanks to his impeccable comic timing and no holds barred ad-lib skills, he has the funniest and most memorable scene in the movie (you’ll know it when you see it), and possibly even of his career. Seriously, you get your ten bucks worth that one part alone. Cringe-humor at its best.
Jennifer Aniston once again gets to break away from the ho-hum rom-coms she’s been stuck in for years and show off her comedic talent in a hard-R comedy as she did in last year’s Horrible Bosses. Forget the fact that she’s a big A-list star and an unfortunate favorite of the tabloids (“Will Jennifer EVER Find True Love?” “Jennifer Hoping for a Baby Before It’s Too Late!” “Jennifer’s Secret Collection of Brad’s Toenail Clippings!”), she’s a damn good comedienne when given the opportunity to actually be one and fits right in with the cast, which is no surprise being that she has experience in sketch-comedy herself (the terribly underrated early 90’s The Edge – If you’re drawing a blank, I believe there are some clips on YouTube–worth checking out).
Aniston and Rudd, who have worked together before (The Object of My Affection, Friends), have a natural chemistry and make for a great on-screen couple.
And neither has aged!
Jen’s real-life current boyfriend, Justin Theroux, slips chameleon-like into his role as Seth, the cultish leader of Elysium and manages to keep the character just at the rim of the top without going over the top.
The rest of the cast is populated with familiar names and not-so familiar-names-but-familiar-faces: Malin Akerman, Joe Lo Truglio, Kathryn Hahn, Kerri Kenney, Lauren Ambrose, Jordan Peele, and Michael Ian Black. Michaela Watkins deserves a toast of her own for her standout scene-stealing performance as George’s brother’s miserable wife, as does Alan Alda who plays Carvin, the burnt-out founder of the community.
With so many actors given the chance to shine, so much improvisation, and so much awesome general absurdity, the plot suffers a bit. It gets a little sloppy in the second half with out an of nowhere yet predictable (and unnecessary) story arc and spontaneous character motivation changes, but honestly, by that point you’re laughing so much you really don’t care.
Like George and Linda, go into Elysium with an open mind and embrace the crazy. While this type of comedy is not for everyone, for those that are fans of any of the past work of the people involved in Wanderlust, it’s a consistently funny must-see.
In other words, it’s definitely something you’ll want to dip your balls in.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: every time you see a penis. (Fun Fact: Joe Lo Truglio wore a prosthetic penis.)
Take a drink: whenever Seth makes a reference to “new” technology such as VCR’s, CD players, and pagers.
Take a drink: every time Carvin lists all the names of former members of Elysium. (One sip for each name.)
Try to keep a straight face and take a drink: every time you crack at George’s attempt to pump himself up for sex.
Take a drink: every time you have “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors stuck in your head during the week following seeing this movie. (Carry a flask. But don’t drive.)
Last Call: Of course there are outtakes! Stay in your seat! (I wish there were more, but I guess they have to save some for the DVD.)