Laughs are scarce in this shaggy comedy about a Manhattan couple who go hippie.
Hippies are the low-hanging fruit of comedy. In fact, they’re so damned easy to make fun of they’re not funny anymore. They do crazy hippie things like smoke pot, practice yoga, play guitars, throw Frisbees to their dogs, make hummus, you know, all the sorts of things those crazy Whole Foods shoppers do. The women are often scantily clad and the men sport a lot of man jewelry. It’s like South Beach, only hairier and with less lycra.
The hippies in Wanderlust, the lazy new movie from Judd Apatow and Co., also do this thing they call a truth circle, where everybody sits around and says embarrassing true things to each other. The whole experience tends to end in tears, shouting and hallucinations (these are hippies, after all). Don’t cry, but here’s the truth: Wanderlust is not the worst movie you will see all year. But it is not good. You’ll laugh a couple of times, but you’ll wait a good long time to do it. Paul Rudd is responsible for most of the laughs. Jennifer Aniston is responsible for none of them. This fact will not surprise audience members who sat through The Bounty Hunter.
Directed by David Wain (Role Models), the movie follows the quest of unhappy Manhattan couple George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston), who buy a studio apartment (a “microloft,” the real estate agent tells them, in one of the film’s all-too-rare clever moments). George has a high-powered job doing something high-powered — I really have no idea what — but then he loses his job. Linda bounces from hobby to hobby and doesn’t make any money, so they’re at the mercy of George’s unpleasant but successful brother (Ken Marino, who co-wrote the screenplay) in Atlanta.
But along the way, they stumble about Elysium Bed & Breakfast and are deeply charmed by the wine-swilling, didgeridoo-wielding denizens of what turns out to be a free-love commune, led by Seth (Justin Theroux). And when George’s brother proves too unpalatable to live with, George and Linda scurry back to the commune (or “intentional community,” as Seth calls it) to try out a simpler, more authentic life.
George, of course, is the one who wants to give Elysium a shot at first, despite all the hugging, animals that walk in and out of the house, the resident nudist whose naughty bits tend to dangle a bit too close to one’s face and the lack of doors, meat or bathrooms. But George changes his mind pretty swiftly when he realizes that Seth has designs on Linda, who’s thriving in the new environment.
There’s some background noise about a casino that plans to start building on Elysium’s grounds, which are allegedly owned by original founder Carvin (Alan Alda, and I’m not gonna lie, this makes me sad). But all this plot is really just a set-up for jokes, which is fine — if the jokes are funny. For the most part, they’re not. Rudd pulls off a filthy monologue in front of a mirror that pays off spectacularly in a later scene, but for the most part the gags are what you’d think they’d be.
One commune member sneaks to the town diner to eat meat. Another drives George’s car into a lake. A hippie mother (Lauren Ambrose of Six Feet Under) gives birth right in front of George and lugs the placenta around with her.
Let’s get back to the truth for a moment. There’s no real reason to see this movie. It’s exhausting and pointless and not amusing enough to make up for its failings. You can do better. The filmmakers could have done better. Honestly, you’re better off staying home and making hummus.
Cast: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, Malin Ackerman, Alan Alda.
Director: David Wain.
Screenwriters: David Wain, Ken Marino.
Producers: Judd Apatow, Ken Marino, Paul Rudd, David Wain.
A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 98 minutes. Sexual content, graphic nudity, language, drug use. Opens Friday Feb. 24 at area theaters.