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Movie Guy

March 1, 2012

‘Wanderlust’ wanders too much for its own good

“Wanderlust” is a hit-and-miss comedy that had me laughing out loud at the silly characters almost as often as I was groaning at their bad jokes that fell flat. It features a game cast of able comedians willing to do anything for a laugh. Unfortunately, the actors don’t gel into a single comedic troupe, which makes the film feel like a series of comedic sketches clumsily strung together. In short, the “Wanderlust” story simply wanders about too much searching for its focus for the film to succeed as a genuinely great comedy.

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star as George and Linda, a Manhattan couple who have just sunk all of their money into a pricy loft. Their lives are upended when George is laid off and they are forced to pack their things and move in with his brother in Atlanta. Along the way they stop at Elysium, an “intentional community” (don’t call it a commune) dedicated to free love and living off the land. It’s a memorable encounter, and when George’s brother (Ken Marino) proves to be a rage-filled nightmare, the two urbanites decide to give the hippy lifestyle a try.

“Wanderlust” gets a lot of mileage out of awkwardly plopping the city dwellers down among Elysium’s cast of oddball characters. There’s the guy who likes to make wine in the nude (his penis is prominently displayed throughout the film) and the landowner (Alan Alda) who’s done too many drugs in his youth to be functional now. There are also sexual temptations for the couple, including the free love babe, Eva (Malin Akerman) and Seth (Justin Theroux), the creepy-charismatic leader of the group. In something of a surprise, Linda buys into the group ideal, while George has a more difficult time drinking the Kool-Aid.

The film is directed by David Wain, the writer/director behind the 2001 cult favorite comedy, “Wet Hot American Summer,” a film that was also only sporadically funny, but served as a public launching pad for several of the funniest actors working today. It feels like he was trying do something similar here, giving everybody a moment to shine. Some of the actors are very funny--perhaps too funny. Michaela Watkins playing George’s sister-in-law is so good that I almost wish that they had simply made the movie about her character.

Ultimately “Wanderlust” gets my approval because I did laugh quite a bit and Rudd and Aniston have so much approachable charisma that they make this silly adventure amusing to watch. It’s just a little disheartening that the film isn’t much funnier or focused, given the genuinely funny writers and actors behind this hit-and-miss comedy.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.

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