‘Wanderlust’ boasts cadre of comedy greats
Have you ever wanted to quit your job and move out of your place to go live in a hippie commune where you can run around naked and trip balls on hallucinogenic tea? If you said yes, you’re a lot like George and Linda (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) in the new comedy Wanderlust, directed by David Wain.
Rudd is George, a New York business type with a soul-sucking corporate job. Upon arriving at work, he sees that the CEO is in handcuffs and it appears the entire company’s been shut down by the government. Meanwhile, his wife Linda (Aniston) is a filmmaker trying desperately to get someone to pick up her über-depressing documentary on penguins with testicular cancer. After HBO passes and she runs out of options, it becomes clear that they’ll no longer be able to afford their teeny tiny “micro loft” in the city. As a last resort, they decided to move in with George’s douchey brother (Ken Marino of Party Down fame) at his giant McMansion outside of Atlanta. On the journey, they happen upon a hippie commune called Elysium. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when they have car trouble and end up staying with the yoga-loving, sage-burning, guitar-playing vegans at the little retreat for long enough to spark their curiosity. They decide to spend two weeks at the commune–or “intentional community” as they call it–to explore the lifestyle and then face the decision about returning to the “real” world, and to each other.
Wanderlust is packed with comedy greats like The State’s Kerri Kenny-Silver and Joe Lo Truglio, who bares all as a nudist winemaker and novelist, Lauren Ambrose and Jordan Peele (one half of Key & Peele) as soon-to-be parents who will raise their baby at the commune, Kathryn Hahn, whose hilarious turn in StepBrothers was one of the most memorable pasts of the film, Malin Akerman and Alan Alda as the acid-fried founder of the free love camp. The leader of the gang is Seth, played by Justin Theroux, a charismatic cult leader figure who starts to drive a wedge between George and Linda.
With all those comedians on one strip of celluloid, you know you’re in for a good time. Peele’s explanation of how he accidentally drove George’s car into a lake is great, Ambrose giving birth to her baby on the porch is a crack up and Alda’s constant listing of the names of all the original founders of Elysium is a really funny recurring joke. Still, the funniest scene comes from Rudd alone, psyching himself up in the mirror to get the courage to try out the whole free love thing with Akerman. Most of his speech is improvised and it’s amazing that the crew was even able to shoot it without keeling over with laughter. We’re reminded of this non-essential but ultra funny scene with outtakes during the credits, a lovely little parting gift.
All the actors play their roles with great conviction, which makes the characters even funnier because they’re not straight making fun of them. These hippies feel that they’ve found the ideal life and that their beliefs are the way to true enlightenment. When we contrast this with the real world and with our regular guy and gal characters, it leads to great comedy.
It’s really no surprise that Wanderlust is fresh and funny given the cast and the premise. Rudd turns out another stellar comedic performance and I only hope that this gathering of comedy stars will realign again soon.