In this weekend's raunchy new comedy Wanderlust, Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play an uptight couple who are forced out of their Manhattan "micro-loft" when he loses his job and she fails to tempt HBO with her documentary about penguins with testicular cancer. The stranded duo stumble upon the hippie commune Elysium, where they encounter nudists, free love, LSD, and a slew of other hippie tropes. (Watch the trailer below.) So much of the film's fish-out-of-water humor is mined from those cliches that some are branding Wanderlust a "one-joke hippie comedy." Does a strong ensemble, which includes Alan Alda, Justin Theroux, Judd Apatow favorite Kathryn Hahn, and Six Feet Under's Lauren Ambrose, overcome the script's monotony?
The actors make it all worthwhile: The "peace and free love and beverages made of twigs" jokes are certainly anachronistic, says Lisa Schwartzbaum at Entertainment Weekly. But the film's actors redeem them. It's fun to see the clean-cut Rudd fearlessly "rolling in happy raunch," while Aniston is in her element, "secure in the knowledge that for every inch of propriety she's willing to cede, Paul Rudd is ready to get 10 times as crazy for a grateful nation." The dynamite supporting cast relishes the hippie cliches, turning them to comedy gold with "goofy gusto."
The jokes are inescapably tired: The film is littered with the "same overly familiar stereotypes filmmakers mined for cheap laughs or timely drama ages ago," says Nathan Rabin at The A.V. Club. Unsightly nudists and hallucinogen-induced meltdowns... how novel. For stronger takes on the same fish-out-of-water plot see Albert Brooks' Lost in America or Peter Sellers' I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. (Tellingly, both films are decades old.) It's a shame, because Rudd is "effortlessly charming" as he leads a clearly game supporting cast. But they're all underserved by the film's "all-too-easy comedy."
It starts off funny, but goes off track: Wanderlust is "funny and sweet" when it introduces Rudd and Aniston's discombobulated Manhattanites, says Alison Willmore at Movieline. But once they embed with Elysium's hippies, the comedy becomes disappointingly hit-or-miss. Certain bits, particularly Aniston's batty hallucinogenic trip and the myriad of nudism sight gags, land brilliantly. But gags related to the camp's New Age philosophy fall flat. To paraphrase Rudd's character's assessment of the commune, the movie is "a great place to visit, but it's not long before you want to leave."
"Review: Paul Rudd helps keep sweet, affable Wanderlust on track"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How the South's ugly racial history is haunting ObamaCare
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 10 things you need to know today: October 31, 2014
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- If Democrats abandon immigration reform after Tuesday's likely loss, they will turn 2016 into a debacle
- What if Leo Strauss was right?
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- Feast your eyes on this beautiful linguistic family tree
- The economics of Halloween: By the numbers
Subscribe to the Week