Wanderlust Review: Ruddy Hippies…

WANDERLUST (15): On General Release Friday 2nd March

Jennifer Aniston has been in more romantic comedies than most people have hot dinners but it’s very rare that they’re anything to write home about. Her last effort Horrible Bosses was a case in point – amusing but not rolling-in-the-aisles hilarious.  Paul Rudd meanwhile has been much more “miss” than “hit” of late, despite his natural likability, with significant duds in Dinner For Schmucks and How Do You Know.   In fact, his last good movie was Role Models, also directed by David Wain, so could this be a welcome return to form?

Rudd and Aniston star as George and Linda, a New York couple struggling to pay the bills who are forced to leave the Big Apple after George loses his job and Linda’s documentary pitch to HBO about penguins with testicular cancer is unequivocally rejected.  They move in with George’s obnoxious older brother Rick (Ken Marino), but when that quickly becomes unbearable they find their way to Elysium, a hippie commune full of the usual cabal of counter-cultural stereotypes.

They’re initially reluctant to adapt to the hippies’ philosophy but soon find that their relaxed attitude makes a welcome change from the rat race and decide to stay.  But of course, more troubles are just around the corner…

Rudd and Aniston make a believable couple who are never less than likable.  The bulk of the humour comes from improvised segments involving Rudd – notably one in which he has to psyche himself up for a session of “free love” with buxom blonde beauty Eva (Malin Ackerman) that is laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Justin Theroux is also on hand to offer some decent yucks as the group’s alpha-hippie Seth, improv again forming the mainstay of the humour.

The scripted comedy also works fairly well (Alan Alda as the commune’s elderly founder is particularly funny) but the film is let down by the script’s inherent predictability.  Every hippie stereotype is thrown out to challenge George and Linda’s city values  – riffs on nudity, open-relationships, communal possession and hallucinogenic drug use. Consequently it all feels rather familiar and although there are some decent laughs, there are an equal number which fall embarrassingly flat.

Nevertheless, the inherent likability of its cast and the rate of constant humour goes a long way to make up for the film’s deficiencies.   It’s not quite a barnstorming entry into the 2012 comedy canon, but it’s certainly passably entertaining.  If anything, it’s encouraging that Paul Rudd’s comedy skills are still alive and well. Now if only he could find a better vehicle for his talents…

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