Comedy is a strange genre. Though there are filmmakers like the Coen Brothers who know how to be funny cinematically, most comedy movies are all about putting funny people in front of the camera and crying “Action”.
Wanderlust is one of those movies – there’s nothing all that remarkable about the editing or cinematography, but the humor on its own justifies its existence.
Wanderlust begins in New York City, jumping into the lives of George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) after they go from renters to buyers and buy their first home. This being the first act of a comedy, the husband and wife lose their paychecks the next day, leaving the couple bankrupt and in need of some sort of desperate life change.
They find that change at the Elysium Bed and Breakfast Inn/Commune in rural Georgia. It’s that kind of hokey, stereotypical co-op full of hippies and recreational drug use, but its residents show George and Linda a such a pleasently unwinding and relaxing night that they decide to give it a shot and move in.
It’s a conventional premise, but that’s all it needs to be – Wanderlust is mostly a vehicle for actors to be strangely funny, and it does just that. The movie is directed by David Wain, the default leader of 90s comedy troupe / MTV sketch comedy show The State. Though the show has been long gone, some members of the group (as well as new acquaintances, like Rudd) occasionally reteam for projects like Wet Hot American Summer, Reno 911 and Stella (the Stella trio even makes an appearance, in character, in Wanderlust).
If you’re a fan of any of those properties, you’re going to enjoy Wanderlust. The sense of humor they all share isn’t quite weird, but it’s silly and immature enough that mass audiences might see it as sophomoric. That is totally the case, but the glee taken in characters like a nudist novelist and closeted omnivore gives it a second, defining essence.
But the laughs are only as good as its cast, and the actors come through on this. Rudd, who started his acting career outside of comedy, has become one of the most unlikely comedic leading men, Wanderlust included. He plays the straight man admirably, while occasionally letting something explosively funny through. And Justin Theroux pulls through as the ultimate hippie-douchebag hybrid, without ever turning into a complete caricature. The rest of the cast is less effective, including a sleepwalking Alan Alda, but no one underperforms here.
The efforts are enough to let Wanderlust coast through its ninety-eight minutes. Few of the laughs prove memorable, but when sequenced together, it’s a fine use of time.