Susan Granger’s review of “Wanderlust” (Universal Pictures)
Playing the fame game is precarious. Having carved a place in the gossip and fashion pantheon, Jennifer Aniston has become a household name. Yet knowing that she banked $1 million per episode during the last two seasons of TV’s “Friends” (plus subsequent royalties) makes her warbling “Got No Money” ludicrous, particularly when her skin, hair, nails and figure are burnished to perfection.
But that’s just one of the credulity problems evoked by this raunchy comedy in which Aniston plays Linda, the dilettante wife of a financial drone, George (Paul Rudd), whose company goes under just after they splurged on a “micro-loft” in Manhattan’s West Village. Overextended and stressed out, this yuppie couple leaves New York, heading for Atlanta to move in with George’s boorish, foulmouthed brother (Ken Marino). En route, they stumble upon Elysium, a seemingly idyllic, rural Utopia filled with carefree eccentrics, where they’re warmly welcomed with doobies and various hallucinogens. Soon they’re plunging down the rabbit hole of extreme vegan hippie-dom. The prospect of free love forces them to re-examine and re-evaluate their values, particularly when Elysium’s resident guru Seth (Justin Theroux) makes a play for Linda and delectable Eva (Malin Akerman) propositions George.
Edgily written by Ken Marino and director David Wain (“Role Models,” “Wet Hot American Summer”) and produced by Judd Apatow, it’s modestly budgeted fare with much of the bizarre humor based on lack of privacy, particularly on the toilet. Jennifer Aniston has played this type of ‘confused’ role many times before, so she struggles to surface with anything new, while Rudd romps with his usual clowning. It’s secondary players – like Alan Alda as the commune’s founding curmudgeon, Lauren Ambrose as a glowing Earth Mother, Linda Lavin as a wry realtor, Kathryn Hahn as a passive/aggressive cultist, and Joe Lo Truglio as a nude wannabe novelist – who contribute the most amusement, while Ken Marino’s crude character is absurdly obnoxious.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Wanderlust” is a silly 6, evoking more giggles than guffaws. Concluding the credits, Rudd even admits, “I’m grossing myself out.”