Wanderlust

Wanderlust

Movie review by Greg Carlson

Comic journeys in which out-of-touch yuppies follow their bliss are many in number, and often trace their roots to Hy Averback’s 1968 “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!,” a groovy Peter Sellers vehicle penned by Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker in which an uptight lawyer falls under the spell of a prototype Manic Pixie Dream Girl. In “Wanderlust,” David Wain and Ken Marino update the rough contours of the scenario as a commentary on the current economic climate’s anti-corporate occupation attitude. Unlike Sellers’ soon-to-be-wed square, Paul Rudd’s character is already married, but both “Toklas” and “Wanderlust” play with the fantasies of free love before reinforcing the values of commitment and the middle path.

Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are George and Linda, a couple unable to make the payments on their West Village “microloft” when HBO passes on Linda’s foul penguins with testicular cancer doc and George gets the boot from his suit and tie operation. Accepting defeat, the protagonists pack their bags and head for the humiliation of the Atlanta McMansion owned by George’s portable toilet mogul brother Rick (co-writer Ken Marino), a brilliantly coarse jackass. Unable to cope with Rick’s alpha male autocracy, George and Linda decide to return to the Elysium Bed and Breakfast where they stayed en route to Rick’s monstrosity.

The dwellers at Elysium, an “intentional community” that operates like the halcyon ideal of a world where Charles Manson never happened, happily share everything from chores to possessions to each other’s bodies, and “Wanderlust” makes hay with George’s discomfort when his car is abused and his personal privacy invaded (the end credit outtakes from the toilet scene featuring Jordan Peele are hysterical). Malin Akerman’s cheerfully sunny sexual availability (“Think about being inside me”) pushes George to the limit of self-control. When Linda insists that George take advantage of Eva’s offer, his mirror monologue as he practices painfully awkward seduction talk develops into a tour de force display of fearless humiliation. Rudd deserves some kind of award for it.

Wain’s accomplished supporting cast includes veteran Alan Alda as the aging commune founder, Joe Lo Truglio (who appeared at the Fargo Film Festival in “High Road” and live on stage during the closing night improvisation show “Celebrity”) as a nudist winemaker/aspiring writer whose earnest dreams of success are as outsize as his manhood, and Justin Theroux in what may be his best screen work to date. Theroux’s confident, patronizing alpha act is perfect, and a goofy scene in which he scorches Rudd’s hopeless acoustic guitar attempt on the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes” in a music circle is one of many funny sketches in which he excels.

Accompanying tropes of the genre provide fodder for gags, with the “intoxication ensues” device a centerpiece echoing the memorable pot brownie feast that sends Sellers into psychedelic overdrive. Aniston tripping her ass off doesn’t quite measure up to the “Toklas” standard, but Wain fools around with some loopy visual effects that approximate what the character sees in her altered state. Generally, Aniston is outpaced by the improvisational veterans surrounding her (the Wain-Michael Ian Black-Michael Showalter triumvirate appear in a terrific cameo), but “Wanderlust” affably suggests that we still might be able to find a few more laughs sending up the era that the film’s target audience never experienced firsthand.

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