Wanderlust, the latest Judd Apatow-produced comedy, directed by David Wain (The Ten, Role Models) lands the moviemaker’s branded humor in a hippie commune in the mountains of northern Georgia. Naturally, there are jokes about promiscuity, farcical sexual aggression, psychedelics, new age-y rituals, and nudism. All of it offers the measured titillation we’ve come to expect from Apatow, who makes you think he is pushing the boundaries of discretion, yet manages to always bring the story back to safe and sorry sentimentality and cutesy relationship insights.
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are this latest rom-com’s pretty people, and they flee an expensive, stress-ridden life in New York City after George (Rudd) loses his job and Linda (Aniston) fails to win HBO’s interest with her documentary project about penguins with testicular cancer. They retreat to George’s brother’s suburban hell, a mega-home in the exurbs ofAtlanta, where the crude and obnoxious Rick (Ken Marino) lives with his beaten-down wife, Marisa (Michala Watkins), who drinks all day and knows of her husband’s countless affairs but sticks around nonetheless.
Georgia offers little escape for George and Linda, that is until they happen upon a commune (sorry, “intentional community”), and are drawn in by the goofy naivety and sweet warmth of the people who live there. They decide to give the hippie life a try for a couple of weeks, but their relationship begins to strain when the leader of the group, Seth (Justin Theroux), comes on hard to Linda. Meanwhile, George is caught between a desire to return to the world and the opportunity to partake in a little free love with a leggy blond at the commune – both seemingly unachievable goals.
Wanderlust’s main problem is not that its laughs are clunky and inconsistent, or that its premise feels tired and predictable before it even before it really gets going (how did we know there was going to be a herd of out-of-shape elderly people running naked through the fields by the movie’s end?). The problem is that its story is as aimless and ambitionless as its main characters. The film is best when it pokes at silly relationship universals (an emotionally up-and-down road trip montage is memorable), but the relatable humor is mostly reserved to one liners, and the rest of action to canned skit-scenarios and forgettable characters spoofs. What seems to count – more than the jokes or the story – is that the movie makes us schmoopy by the end