Wanderlust is the story of a relatively normal couple seeking a new life in the wake of the destruction of the life they’d built together. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star as George and Linda, a NYC couple who buy a studio apartment and within 24 hours, lose both of their incomes. They consequently lose their brand new (and super tiny) apartment and leave Manhattan in search of employment. George’s douche bag brother, who lives in Atalanta, offers him an entry level job at his company along with a guest bedroom during George and Linda’s time of transition. On the way to Atlanta, the couple stops at a B&B for a night only to discover it is also a communal-living group of unemployed hippies drinking/smoking pot/playing guitar and generally having a kick-ass party all the time. They spend one magical night with said hippies and decide to return for a trial period of two weeks after less than 2 days with George’s brother, Rick, his sad and lonely wife, Marissa (expertly played by the under-used Michaela Watkins – god, I love deadpan) and their jackass of a son.
What ensues is an hour and a half of mediocre plot development, tired and predictable jokes and decent, though largely unimpressive performances. That is, by all except Paul Rudd. The few stellar scenes in this slightly above average comedy are stellar because of Paul Rudd. It turns out, Paul Rudd is THE SHIT!!!!!! I’ve been a fan for quite some time but never have I realized the full potential of his comedic chops until this film. Because the thing is, he usually plays a side character. Even in I Love You, Man, which I loved and in which Rudd knocked it out of the park, he shared the lead with the very funny and charismatic Jason Segel, with whom Rudd had such wonderful chemistry that his singular performance felt more like the product of his talent, the talent of the cast and the excellent writing. But now, after seeing Wanderlust, I know that Rudd can carry a movie ON HIS OWN and even amidst a cast of mostly okay actors. Not to say that Aniston or Justin Theroux weren’t up to par; they gave performances that at no point could be considered less than good acting. They just were never really great, either.
The array of side characters get a few laughs but are mostly a slew of underdeveloped, one-note (and one-joke) characters who do everything expected of them and very little, if anything, more. Honestly, it’s Rudd who makes this movie remarkable. And the scene that happens somewhere in the last quarter of the flick, a scene in which Rudd gives his penis a pep talk while looking in a mirror in an effort to psych himself up for a sexual encounter he does not want to engage in, all the while talking in a voice and accent reminiscent of former president G.W. Bush, will make you nearly piss your pants. This scene alone is worth sitting through the other 90 minutes to see.
I just have to add that I love how mainstream it has become to show full frontal male nudity. I’m not sure when it became acceptable to expose the male genitalia in R-rated (not NC-17) movies but I think it’s brilliant, especially when said genitals are used as comedic props. I remember in high school (that is, the ’90s) it was unheard of to see such a thing in a non-pornographic film. There were rumors that if paused at exactly the right moment, one might catch a glimpse of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dangling member in The Terminator and then there was Kevin Bacon’s surprise nudity in the scandalous Wild Things but I don’t think it was until Forgetting Sarah Marshall that penises were used for getting laughs. Then, of course, Observe & Report and now, Wanderlust. I, for one, say it’s about time. Penises are nothing to be afraid of, people. And, if used wisely, can be quite hilarious.
Overall, I recommend seeing Wanderlust. It’s a decent movie and an okay comedy with a few scenes sprinkled throughout that rank in the top 50 most hilarious moments captured on film. Mostly, thanks to Paul Rudd.