I wrote this right after the 2.16 Wanderlust premiere in Westwood, and then pulled it due to embargo restrictions: “Certain…okay, several portions of David Wain‘s Wanderlust (Universal, 2.24), a snappy satire of straightlaced vs. hippie-ish values and lifestyles, aren’t half bad. That’s not to say I laughed out loud, but I was quiety amused by much of it. And the crowd at the Village tonight was having a pretty good time.
“Wain and Ken Marino‘s screenplay is about a pair of anxious urban marrieds (Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston) toying with life at a well-tended hippie commune in Georgia when their…well, when Rudd’s New York job disappears. The film wrenches gags out of Rudd-Aniston reacting to (and in some ways blending in with) the sensual, free-form, flaky aspects of freako life — all very easily satirized — and then Rudd-Aniston pulling up stakes at the last minute and going, “Whoa…enough of that!” And the entrepenurial tidiness of the wrap-up is a bit much.
“Are there any hippie communes in 2012? Didn’t they all fade out about 30 years ago? No matter. The point is that Wanderlust ultimately says hippie life is open and free but also a form of kool-aid fraudulence, and that for all their hang-ups yuppie rat-racers are the real stand-up deal. So while it throws out some very sharp social barbs, particularly at an arrogant, nouveau-riche couple and local news twerps, at heart Wanderlust is a rather timid, conservative-minded comedy.
“Onemarital infidelity scene involving Aniston and another guy happens off-screen (too shocking to visualize?) and another — i.e., going topless before local news cameras — is pixellated. Why do this if you’re going to candy-ass out?
“The film basically says it’s best not to wander too far from your safe middle-class behavior zones. Or, alternately, that a little hippy-dippy in your life can be a fun thing for a week or two, but don’t dive into it whole-hog. Go back to the big city and get a job, big guy! I have a feeling that George and Laura Bush will love it.
“Justin Theroux (Aniston’s current b.f.) is pretty good as the most charismatic guy in the hippie clan. Ditto Alan Alda as the doddering founder of the hippie retreat and owner of the land and estate. Also fine are Malin Akerman, Lauren Ambrose, Joe Lo Truglio, Kathryn Hahn and Melissa Joan Hart.”