‘Wanderlust’ goes for cheap easy laughs

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in 'Wanderlust'
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in ‘Wanderlust’

There was minor controversy in Hollywood about the fact that Jennifer Aniston signed a contract that included her doing a topless scene.  The good news is that she ended up doing the scene.  The bad news is that what is ultimately shown on the big screen is digitally altered to blur out any ability to “see” anything.

Wanderlust is a familiar tale.  George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) are a married couple living happily in New York City.  Of course, he’s not happy with the job he works so hard at.  He actually hates it.  She still hasn’t found her calling, and her latest effort at employment does not live up to her expectations.  When you add in the fact that they’ve just purchased their first apartment and are overextended financially, you have a recipe for impending disaster.

Sure enough, George finds himself out of work through a cliched contrivance and with the failure of Linda’s newest venture, they can’t afford to remain in NYC.  Luckily, George’s brother Rick (Ken Marino) is doing very well down South in Atlanta and he tells George to come live with him and his wife Marissa in his beautiful big house, and he’ll employ George in the business that he owns.

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston co-star in 'Wanderlust'
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston co-star in ‘Wanderlust’

So the couple set course for Atlanta with all their belongs in their compact car.  The journey itself will generate a laugh or two but the real humor begins when Linda says they have to stop as she’s just too tired to go on.  The handy-dandy GPS locates a nearby B&B and they stop at Elysium.

Elysium turns out to be the communal home of a 60s survivor named Carvin, whose also known as Lion (Alan Alda who is sorely underutilized), who has assembled a modern set of young and middle-aged folks who support themselves by running a food stand at the gate, renting out the “good” bedroom in the big house on the property that Carvin owns.

They profess to not having a “leader” but clearly exercising the leader role is Seth (Justin Theroux).  The couple spends an amazing night at Elysium in spite of some of the quirks of the population and in the morning, departs for Rick’s Atlanta home.  An example of the quirky people one can find at Elysium is an aspiring author who is also a nudist, who must wear a big “pouch sac” when he’s stomping his own grapes for wine.

The job, living under Rick’s roof and his alcoholic, depressed wife Marissa (Michaela Watkins), eventually drive George to bolt from his brother’s house, wife Linda in tow, heading back to Elysium.  Linda isn’t happy about being there and wants to leave, but eventually they resolve to give it two weeks and then decide.

Of course there are issues.  “Free love” is one of the community standards and Eva (Malin Ackerman) has the hots for George.  Seth clearly wants to add Linda to his long list of conquests and as a result of his desire for Linda, he does go out of his way to make things a little rough on George.  Adding to the tension is the fact that the ownership of the property is in dispute and Corvin can’t remember where he left the deed, and there are people who want to develop and build on the property.

There is actualy nudity in spite of the digital alterations to Ms Aniston, and the humor ranges from mildly amusing to laugh out loud hysterical.  But there’s the feeling that something just isn’t right here, with George and Linda, as well as Seth.  The ultimate resolutions are satisfying enough, but at the end all you are left with is the typical happy-ending and the memory of some hearty laughter.

The basic premise is sound, but the execution got lost in the decision to go for easy laughs at the expense of waving genitals in George’s face and violations of his privacy.  Oh yes, don’t walk out the minute the credits start to roll.  The little “bit” that’s there after the credits are done isn’t brilliant, but it’s worth a look.

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