Movie review: ‘Wanderlust’ doomed by crude schoolboy humor, unnecessary nudity

By Erin Roberts

Movie review: ‘Wanderlust’ doomed by crude schoolboy humor, unnecessary nudity


Directed by David Wain

Rating: 2 stars

Picture this: A modern-day couple is wrapped up in their busy lives and careers in a fast-moving, big city — preferably Manhattan — with no time for self-expression and love for each other. Twist of fate. Now they must move to a commune full of hippies, who are the crazy, free-love type. What on earth will happen?

If that didn’t sound original or exciting to you, you know how I felt after seeing the previews for “Wanderlust.” I’ve seen enough movies with tree-hugging potheads as the butt of jokes, and an entire movie based on that concept seemed a little redundant.

Still, it’s a broad concept, and with a strong plot, characters and a few truly funny lines, I thought it could work. So I joined a small group of people Friday at Hollywood Theaters to see the movie.

“Wanderlust” is directed by David Wain (“Role Models,” “Wet Hot American Summer”) stars Jennifer Aniston (“Friends,” “Horrible Bosses”), Paul Rudd (“Role Models,” “I Love You, Man”), and Malin Akerman (“Watchmen,” “27 Dresses”).

The movie follows George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) as they abandon their hectic New York City apartment and lifestyle to live on a commune full of free-loving hippies in rural Georgia.

The R-rated comedy must walk a fine line between cleverness and vulgarity. Its great challenge is being truly funny without being disgusting, and that can be difficult when there’s a basically a nonexistent cap on the number of sexual jokes and occurrences of nudity allowed.

We’ve seen far too many writers of these movies fall into the trap of writing something vulgar instead of clever for a cheap laugh. Don’t get me wrong, physical comedy gags exist for a reason, sex jokes too. When done right, these can be a little shocking but ultimately hilarious.

Unfortunately, the trend in R-rated movies seems to be throwing in as many crotch hits, naked fat men, F-bombs and attractive women as possible. It seems the writers cast their nets out into the ocean of middle school-boy humor and hope to bring in something film-worthy, and even when they don’t, they still make a film with it.

Unfortunately, “Wanderlust” falls into the schoolboy category — and it falls pretty far. The lameness of this film can’t be blamed on Rudd or Aniston, both of whom deliver relatively believable and chuckle-worthy performances.

Rudd in particular has some shining moments of physical comedy — watch for his personal pep talk in the mirror — though for every funny moment, there seems to be five failed attempts.

Aniston plays her usual girl-next-door, naïve-but-cute character, which worked incredibly well for Rachel on “Friends,” but since seems a little redundant.

Malin Akerman also revives her hot girl role as one of the residents of the commune who propositions George in the spirit of free love, but her development seems to be flat as a pancake, making her hugely boring.

Even with its relatively strong supporting cast, this movie has trouble getting on its feet due to a weak script. Rather than being full of original and quirky supporting characters, it depends instead on a series of vulgar jokes to fill the screen.

“Wanderlust” fails to use smart humor to supplement its crude jokes, making for a high “ick” factor. I don’t consider myself a prude, but the number of occurrences of full-frontal male nudity probably was more offensive to me than any other aspect of the movie. Each occurrence is unnecessary and rarely serves the plot or even contributes to a joke. And if that doesn’t gross you out enough, there also is full female nudity, provided by a number of elderly women and shown in slow motion.

When it isn’t failing to produce laughs with its physical comedy, the movie delivers line after line of objectively funny dialogue that, for whatever reason, just don’t connect. I would estimate about 75 percent of moments that should have produced laughs from the audience were met with silence.

The pace also is uneven. The film opens with a series of fast-paced developments that take George and Linda from Manhattan, to the commune, to George’s brother’s house, and back to the commune again. Once there, the speeding plot screeches to a crawl as nothing really happens for the next hour.

This movie is not necessarily horrible. Occasionally, jokes land as they should, and it is styled well. It is, however, nothing special, and can be disgusting at times. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to be seen in theaters, especially for full price.

Maybe if there’s nothing else to do on a Saturday when “Wanderlust” has made it to the dollar theater, you could see it with a large group of friends, but short of that, it’s not really worth it.

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