Whether good or bad, love or hate, movies should always elicit a reaction; the stronger the better in my book. When I come out of a theater, I want to have an opinion of the film I just saw and I want to be bubbling over with comments to process and compile into a review. As such, one of the worst traits a film can have is a lack of noteworthy content. If I cannot muster up a few hundred words on a given film, then I can’t exactly give a hearty recommendation. Such is the case with Wanderlust.
Life isn’t going well for George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston). Just days after paying too much for a small New York apartment, George’s company goes under and Linda’s new business idea is wrecked. Jobless and penniless, the couple heads to Atlanta where George has a job waiting for him, courtesy of his obnoxious older brother (Ken Marino). On the way down, however, they stop in at a remote bed and breakfast which turns out to be a commune. Led by a charismatic free spirit named Seth (Justin Theroux), this group of hippies have embraced a simpler way of life that comes complete with all the amenities and ideals you might expect of such a community. Intrigued by the happiness the group exudes, George and Linda decide to move into the commune for a two-week trial run. Shenanigans ensue.
Most of what I liked about Wanderlust boiled down to my affection for the leads, Rudd and Aniston. Rudd is one of the most likeable, perpetually enjoyable comedic actors in the field today and he always manages to come across as a bright spot even in a bad movie. I think Rudd’s charm comes as a result of his ability to bridge the gap between nerd and cool guy; he doesn’t exactly belong in either camp and yet can walk in both. As always, Rudd gives an endearing and appealing performance here and exudes a natural, everyman charisma. I’m pretty sure several of the funnier scenes within Wanderlust are the product of Rudd’s improvised banter and as such, this film owes a great deal to its star. Aniston, too, is a favorite of mine (despite some of truly terrible films) who has proven to possess a comedic touch when given something to work with. Her chemistry with Rudd is solid and while her role isn’t as well developed as Rudd’s, she does her job well and the pair makes for a solid combination.
The other elements of Wanderlust, however, are lackluster. The narrative contains a few promising storylines but they aren’t fleshed out with much pizzazz. There are plenty of laughs but most of them come from easy, “low hanging fruit”-type jokes that get old as the film progresses. And most of the supporting characters are as one-note as they come; each brings a few laughs here and there when they’re in their respective elements but then run out of gas and become tiresome. Theroux, Malin Ackerman, Kathryn Hahn, and several others have their moments but none of them ever really get moving or show any signs of development. This lack of depth and development results in the feeling that Wanderlust is not so much a film as it is a bundle of individual scenes, vignettes if you will, tied together by George and Linda in loose, unsatisfying fashion.
There’s nothing inherently or irrevocably wrong with Wanderlust but outside of a few laughs and the appeal of the leads, there’s nothing truly right about it, either. It simply is and that lack of significance makes for an overly ho-hum experience.