Two high-pressure Manhattanites chuck it all for a care-free rural commune in "Wanderlust," a comedy that aims for hip irreverence but ends up firmly in Squaresville. Filled with ossified stereotypes and a hopelessly traditional outlook, "Wanderlust" feels about as edgy as an early Johnny Carson monologue and slightly less clever than a "Visualize Whirled Peas" bumper-sticker.
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play our latte-sipping heroes, George and Linda, a married couple cramming into a West Village "micro-loft" while his finance-industry salary subsidizes her indie filmmaking ambitions. But when George's firm is shuttered by the Feds (a brief nod to topicality), he and Linda relocate to Atlanta as guests of two other caricatures: George's wealthy, racist brother, Rick (co-writer Ken Marino, saving himself a few good lines), and his margarita-swilling wife, Marisa (Michaela Watkins).
It's all too "Revolutionary Road" for George and Linda, but they're somehow charmed by Elysium, a nearby "intentional community" full of summer-stock hippie-dippies like the pregnant earth-mother (Lauren Ambrose), the paunchy nudist (Joe Lo Truglio) and a soulful-eyed alpha-male named Seth (Justin Theroux, a cut above the rest) who begins rubbing his musk on Linda. The only cartoon groovers missing here are the long-haired Muppets Floyd and Janice. Alan Alda's small role as Carvin, the commune's now-senile founder, feels less like an affectionate spoof of his liberal generation and more like a casual betrayal.
Rudd and Aniston, who sparkled a bit in 1998's "The Object of My Affection," are here drowned in cow-poop and hallucinogenic herbs, though Rudd's improv skills get a memorably weird workout when George attempts to bed Eva (Malin Akerman), a braless free-love fantasy. Ultimately, director and co-writer David Wain ("Role Models") treats alternative living as the dumbest joke of all, suitable only for morons and self-deluders. Even Carvin admits that his decades in Elysium have robbed him of something "more real." What a drag, man.
PLOT A married couple trades high-stress Manhattan for a laid-back rural commune RATING R (profanity, vulgarity, nudity, drug use)
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE The usual hippie jokes, the usual yuppie jokes, the usual everything in this tired, outmoded comedy
Back story: Paul Rudd, the 'goofball'
Actress Kerri Kenney-Silver shares a bedroom scene with Paul Rudd in "Wanderlust."
Kenney-Silver said that they filmed about 20 takes before she was able to get out her lines without Rudd's making her laugh.
"He's such a goofball. He's the first one to try to make you to crack up," she said on the red carpet before the film's Los Angeles premiere last week.
Malin Akerman, who plays a member of the commune, said that while acting with Rudd, it was "hard to keep a straight face. He is such a good improv actor. Things would come out of his mouth, and I was, like, 'Did you just say that? That's crazy!' "
The movie was a reunion for some of the talent behind "Wet Hot American Summer," the 2001 flop that launched the careers of several now-successful actors, including Bradley Cooper and Elizabeth Banks. (A real reunion may be coming soon, with a "Wet Hot" sequel in the works.) Kenney-Silver was among the alums, along with Rudd, writer-director David Wain, writer-actor Ken Marino and actor Joe Lo Truglio.
"Any time I get to work with David or Ken or Joe or any of the guys, it's home," Kenney-Silver said. "This was the first time really that we were able to incorporate huge movie stars and a huge company and have it feel like it was still home, but we just bumped it up like 10 notches." -- Los Angeles Times