Once again, like Our Idiot Brother, Paul Rudd is the heart (and laughs) of a mediocre comedy. Rudd, one of my favorite actors, who I will eternally believe is a sweet muffinhead despite any evidence to the contrary, does what he can with the material. He gives a pep talk to himself in the mirror that provides the only belly laughs I had the entire film and proves he is willing to completely embarrassing himself on screen. Too bad the rest of the gags fall short in director David Wain’s newest film, despite his resume of Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models, and The State.
The biggest issue is that we are supposed to care about the relationship between Aniston’s Linda and Rudd’s George. Their marriage is presented as long-term and committed and happy, but we see very little about why they were together in the first place or what connects them. Because they are married, we are expected to fill in the blanks, which just doesn’t work. The next biggest issue is that the “hippies are weird” jokes fall flat, despite Alan Alda’s deft performance as an aged 60s throwback and Joe Truglia’s sweet and enthusiastic nudist. I didn’t learn much about the values of the commune, other than existing stereotypes I already had (and known to not be wholly true). I also didn’t learn much about how those values changed George and Linda during their time with this community, except that Linda, who is already prone to short-term obsessions, becomes short-term obsessed with whatever it is the commune means to them. Finally, despite a great supporting cast, including Ken Marino and Kathyrn Hahn, nothing really clicks. Most egregiously, Malin Ackerman is once again underused as a personality-less blonde lady. I used to believe that she was a personality-less blonde lady, but then I watched Childrens Hospital. You should catch up on that show if you want to see her be actually funny and watch Ken Marino at his best jerk self. In fact, spend your time doing that instead of paying full price for Wanderlust unless you really really really need to see a movie in this dead-time at the theaters.
Finally, that word does not mean what you think it means… Wanderlust is “a strong desire for or impulse to hike, wander or travel and explore the world.” George and Linda don’t want any of those things. They just want to live in New York and be interesting people who happen to have really beautiful hair. Such, such pretty hair. Sigh.