The key to great comedy is making an audience laugh so hard that they never want to stop. In Wanderlust, a new comedy starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, this action happens rarely, if ever.
George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston), are a married Manhattan couple living in a “micro-loft” until George loses his corporate job (which he hates), and Linda fails to sell her documentary about penguins with cancer. The couple then flees the city and hits the road, heading south to Atlanta to live with George’s obnoxious brother (Ken Marino). On the way, they seek one night’s refuge at Elysium, a hippie commune. After life at the brother’s becomes too much, the two head back to Elysium in an effort to give the commune’s peace and free love, cannabis consuming, twiggy-beverage lifestyle a try. While there, they are forced to adjust from their former latte and smart phone addicted lives. Their new lives include the sexy Eva (Malin Akerman) who turns her charms on to seduce George, as well as the absolutely full-of-shit, but still completely appealing and charming Seth (Justin Theroux).
Unfortunately, what should have been a great set-up and premise with a strong cast of zany characters played by some wonderful comedic actors and director David Wain, falls short of what it could have been. The hefty part of the blame goes to the sad script, which doesn’t do either the characters, the actors who play them or the story justice. Many of the gags go on for far too long, falling flat almost immediately, then persist in trying and press the audience to laugh at them in the hopes that continuing the joke will suddenly make it funny. The one exception to this is a fairly long stretch of time where Rudd’s character talks to himself in a mirror, a spot that was hopefully all ad-libbed on Rudd’s part. Otherwise, it too is a poorly written joke meant to just stretch the script out long enough to last at minimum of an hour and a half.
There is also a real genuine lack of chemistry between Rudd and Aniston, which makes it hard to root for them to work through any issues they may have as a couple. This is in addition to an ironic lack of chemistry between Aniston and other film love interest Theroux, her real life partner. It’s hard to believe Linda, after she is fully seduced by commune life, would still go for Seth, because his charm really doesn’t go very far.
Overall, the film isn’t really worth the ticket price, because the laughs don’t sustain the audience over the one hour thirty-eight minute runtime. You’re better off trying to find a commune of your own—chances are it’ll provide more laughter than Elysium does.