By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
If there’s any lingering doubt about Paul Rudd’s supremacy as a leading man on light-comedy patrol, Wanderlust makes it official — if for no other reason than one segment consisting of nothing fancier than the enormously likable Rudd playing a straight-laced guy standing by himself and talking into the bathroom mirror, trying to psych himself into the hedonistic abandon that his situation and surroundings call for.
It is one of the most gut-bustingly hilarious, one-for-the-ages showcases of visual and vocal comedy on a movie screen in recent memory.
And it’s not the only thing Wanderlust has going for it as a fish-out-of-water comedy about the possibility of escaping from stressful contemporary society and embracing a different set of values and behaviors.
Rudd and co-star Jennifer Aniston play George and Linda Gergenblatt, a couple from Manhattan for whom the financial bottom has just fallen out, as George has lost his corporate job and filmmaker Linda the financing for her documentary. They can no longer afford their tiny studio apartment. (Oops, sorry — realtors prefer to call it a “micro-loft.”)
So, given how much it costs to live in New York even with a job, the jobless-and-essentially-homeless marrieds go in search of a slower-paced, less pressure-packed, materialism-abandoning alternative lifestyle.
They leave for Atlanta to move into the McMansion owned by George’s thoroughly objectionable brother, played by the overacting Ken Marino, whom they can hardly stand to be near for more than a moment. (Us either.)
But along the way, they stop at a countryside bed-and-breakfast hotel that just happens to be a free-love-endorsing hippie commune. (Oops, sorry — residents prefer to call it an “intentional community.”)
It’s Elysium, where not having a job, not having any money, and not having any clothes on are not the same problems that they were back in the Big Apple.
This becomes their new if temporary home, one presided over by a leader played by Justin Theroux, the charismatic dispenser of the Kool-Aid at Elysium, which was founded decades ago by an aging hippie played by Alan Alda, who is still there even if he can’t quite remember why.
Can George and Linda adjust to this alternative way of life and fit in here, even while, in a half-heartedly developed subplot, corporate investor-developers are knocking at the door, intent on bulldozing Elysium to make way for a casino to be constructed on the sizable property?
The supporting cast, which also features Malin Akerman, Lauren Ambrose, Kathryn Hahn, Jordan Peele, Kerry Kenney-Silver, Linda Lavin, Michaela Watkins, and Joe Lu Truglio as the single resident nudist, comprise a watchable, game ensemble.
With Judd Apatow producing, director David Wain (Role Models, The Ten, Wet Hot American Summer), who co-wrote the finding-yourself script with Marino, keeps the narrative momentum as relaxed as the Elysium regulars and handles the R-rated raunch in an audience-friendly way.
And he gives his cast members an improvisatory freedom that they deserve — and take advantage of.
That also applies, and then some, to leads Aniston and Rudd, possessors of expert comic timing and an unforced, winning, till-death-us-do-part chemistry.
So we’ll commune with 3 stars out of 4. Lust is only one of the places that Wanderlust wanders to, and plenty of laughs follow.