wanderlust

The comedy, staring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, has some weak points, but contains enough jokes and awkwardness to hold viewers’ attention.[/media-credit]

What happens when two die-hard Manhattanites are transplanted into unfamiliar territory with hippies, drugs and nudists? “Wanderlust” reinterprets the classic tale of city dwellers adjusting to a different environment through the medium of raunch comedy.

George (Paul Rudd, “Our Idiot Brother”) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston, “Horrible Bosses”) are a married couple forced to leave New York City after each of their careers take a dive. A failed attempt to pitch HBO a documentary about penguins with testicular cancer leads to Linda facing unemployment for the umpteenth time, while George is laid off from his hated corporate job. The pair decide to move to Atlanta, where George will take a mediocre position working for his brother. On the long drive, the pair decides to stay at the nearest bed and breakfast, which turns out to be a raging hippie commune. While the New Yorkers are initially uncomfortable, they stay the night and are charmed by the chanting bohemians.

The couple soon finds life with George’s overbearing brother, Rick (Ken Marino of TV’s “Childrens Hospital”), too hostile to handle. So Linda and George return to the commune, Elysium, only to find that they must embrace its rules and customs wholeheartedly, which include “free love,” refrain from violence and a no privacy policy.

While the plot tends to meander, its intended path is always clear and predictable. Like many raunchier comedies, the plot is not the center of attention – the jokes are.

The comedy flows freely and remains constant throughout the film. The humor is quite raunchy, with the occasional scene of uncomfortable awkwardness sprinkled in. This awkwardness stems from the extensive quantities of nudity in “Wanderlust.” While the nudity is at times fairly hilarious, it veers to the side of being overdone and distasteful.

Other elements of the hippie lifestyle are also showcased in the film, such as the characters’ use of marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs, which generates some silly situations.

The film is staffed with a well-rounded cast that specializes in bit parts and character acting. Alan Alda (“Tower Heist”) portrays an old hippie with convincing charm, while actresses like Kathryn Hahn (of TV’s “Free Agents”) and Kerri Kenney (Best known for “Reno 911!”) play to their strengths as earthy kooks. Paul Rudd essentially plays Paul Rudd, a guy who is funny and a little weird, but ultimately a straight man and a foil for comedic insanity.

In last summer’s “Horrible Bosses,” Jennifer Aniston’s performance playing against type showed her depth as a comedic actor. To her credit, in “Wanderlust,” she garners some big laughs, but she ultimately returns to familiar territory as a woman who is unsure of her career path, yet is very attractive and thus becomes a prize to be fought over (cough – Rachel Green – cough).

“Wanderlust” succeeds in its portrayal of adversarial characters, as they inflate the film with unrestricted humor. The leader of the commune, Seth (Justin Theroux, “Your Highness”), is composed of a hodgepodge of stereotypical antagonist traits. He is extremely fit, a talented musician, a manipulator and, though verbally slick, has moments of utter dimwittedness. George’s brother Rick’s explosive and politically incorrect humor adds not only a side story line, but another outlet for hilarity.

Overall, this film succeeds in producing consistent humor of multiple varieties like craziness, nudity, one-liners and physical comedy. The writing is sharp, but many elements of this movie seem slightly redundant and rushed, especially the ending.

The characters have strong on-screen chemistry (this is the third project Aniston and Rudd have done together), but that element was at times overshadowed by the force of some outrageous humor. It is a fun film that may perturb those averse to nudity and profanity, but ultimately, most will leave with a grasp and appreciation for the comedic sensibilities of “Wanderlust,” however ridiculous they are.

3 stars out of 5

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