It’s ironic that the word “wanderlust” refers to a strong desire to travel and yet the film in question is, at it’s core, all about settling down. To be honest, it isn’t your generic, soppy rom-com. It’s moderately heartwarming, occasionally (okay, maybe a bit more than that) funny and somewhat likeable. If you’re keeping up with the adverbs, you’ll see where this is going: “Wanderlust” is forthright and unpretentious about what it truly is — average.
At Quality 16 and Rave
But that’s OK. It’s sort of like liking someone who’s not trying too hard or admiring someone for accepting their flaws. So on the one hand, you hate director David Wain (“Role Models”) for not trying harder (how could you not dream big when your film’s based in a hippie commune?), but you also can’t help but forgive him for his honesty and for having a bit of fun.
“Wanderlust” begins with the average Manhattan lives of George (Paul Rudd, “Dinner for Schmucks”) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston, “Horrible Bosses”). George hates his job, but it pays the rent, while Linda has too many jobs that pay nothing. As George’s brother says, they have the worst of both worlds — a tiny apartment and a huge mortgage. When George gets fired and Linda’s documentary about penguins gets rejected by HBO, they’re forced to pack up their lives and move south.
A few thousand miles and a few hundred arguments later, they wind up exhausted on the doors of Elysium Bed and Breakfast (of course, it isn’t really a B&B). This large hippie commune, with its naked winemakers and ayahuasca-drinking vegans, comes as a shock to George and Linda. But it’s the only rent they can afford, opening the door to a whole wide world of eccentricities and weirdos.
Unsurprisingly, George gets excited about the prospect of enjoying life and living carefree, and Linda is weirded out by the open relationships and pot smoking. But eventually, it’s Linda’s turn to have a bit of fun and George’s to get a little queasy (after that natural-birthing scene, who can blame him?). The only thing they haven’t adopted is an open relationship, but when Linda agrees to that choice and sleeps with commune leader Seth (Justin Theroux, “Your Highness”), things really start to fall apart.
“Wanderlust” just wants to be a heartfelt comedy about finding out what “home” really means. Is home where the shiny buildings and delectable cafes of Manhattan are nestled? Or, quite simply, is home where the heart is? It’s a romantic comedy, so you know which agenda this movie’s pushing. It succeeds in most ways because Rudd and Aniston are genuine and adorable. They might not be the best actors in the world, but they have fun with their characters.
So does every actor involved. Joe Lo Truglio (“Paul”), the nudist winemaker, manages to make the audience laugh when they really just should have been throwing up. Malin Akerman (“The Proposal”) churns out another sexy, short and strange performance as the ever-desirable Eva. But while these characters are cute and naïve, they’re underdeveloped. You can laugh at them, but you can never really care about them.
And to a certain extent, that’s true of the entire movie. “Wanderlust” has no shortage of phallic jokes you’ll be quoting for a week, but its ambitious attempt to attain hilarity and poignancy renders the film a bit of both and a lot of neither. And that’s regrettable, because it’s exactly what’s expected.