Wanderlust is the sum of its small smiles. I don’t think I laughed out loud at all while watching it, but I grinned pretty much throughout.
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star as George and Linda, a New York City couple who have been downsized out of their “micro-loft” and decide to pursue a different sort of life with an “intentional community” in Georgia. (Insert “studio apartment” and “commune” for the terms in quotation marks and you’ll have a better idea of what we’re dealing with here.)
Rudd and Aniston are the likable and quite funny headliners, nicely embodying the sense of displacement so many professionals have felt in the wake of the Great Recession. Yet Wanderlust ultimately works because there isn’t a rotten apple in its extensive ensemble cast. From Linda Lavin’s unscrupulous real-estate broker to Michaela Watkins’ dazed housewife of Atlanta to Joe Lo Truglio’s nudist novelist, the movie is a fabric of amusing bits and pieces – something like a shaggy, hippie blanket that’s adorned with delightful little gems. (One of them would be this description of rain, courtesy of Justin Theroux’s horny commune leader: “I drink the nourishment that God is feeding me through her cloud teats.”)
Such consistency hasn’t always been the case with the comedies of director David Wain, whose first two films – Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten – are decidedly hit or miss (and heavy on the miss). With 2008’s Role Models, however, he found a more consistent groove, and it’s one he improves upon here.
Of course, Wanderlust is far more conventional than Wain’s early pictures; it’s missing the chaotic irreverence that has made Wet Hot American Summer, in particular, a beloved cult item. Despite a narrative that suggests inner peace is not attainable anywhere – not in New York City’s hippest neighborhoods, not in Deep South communes, not in the oppressive McMansion that George’s buffoonish brother presides over in Atlanta – the picture comes to a quick and tidy end.
Oh well, at least there’s a nude Ray Liotta cameo in the epilogue to give it a final flourish.