At one point in Wanderlust, George Gergenblatt (Paul Rudd) is giving himself a pep talk in the mirror. What starts out as a silly, juvenile scene becomes one of the funniest, more memorable moments in the entire movie, just because the scene keeps going and going; the more Rudd milks it, the more hilarious it gets.
And that’s what the movie itself is. What starts out as a cutesy comedy about a New York City couple (Rudd and Jennifer Aniston), forced to relocate after a particularly bad day on the job front, ends up as a solidly hilarious romp that succeeds almost solely because it just keeps getting crazier and crazier.
As George arrives at work one morning to find the FBI has raided the office, his wife Linda is across town unsuccessfully pitching HBO on a documentary about penguins with testicular cancer. Within hours they come to the realization that their lack of economic fortitude means they have to move out of the city and go shack up with George’s brother Rick in Atlanta.
Before they get there, though, they stop for the night at the Elysium Bed & Breakfast, which turns out to be a hippie commune. It isn’t long before George and Linda realize that spending time in a place where people play guitar and smoke weed all day isn’t the worst thing.
Rudd and Aniston fit together perfectly, having already shared screen time in 1998’s The Object of My Affection and a boatload of Friends episodes. And, save for that one mirror scene, they wisely tone the craziness down, leaving it to the colorful folks at Elysium.
It’s no surprise to see Judd Apatow’s name attached as a producer– the often-ribald comic bits come in steady waves, both with sight gags (Joe Lo Truglio is great as a nudist wine-maker) and with the script (Aniston’s real-life beau Justin Theroux is the hilariously under-played leader of the commune, Seth– who’s perpetually stuck in the 90s).
But this is really the baby of David Wain and Ken Marino, the pair behind 2008’s Role Models. With a knack for making the wildly insane look almost normal, their screenplay for Wanderlust is not only truly funny, it’s also just plain fun. Wain also directed, and he keeps things zipping forward at a good pace.
Sure, there are moments where Wanderlust sputters; Michaela Watkins falls a bit flat as Rick’s ‘Real Housewife’ wife Marissa, and the subplot of how developers want to build a casino on the commune’s land is an unnecessary distraction, but for the most part the movie works, and it will leave you laughing.
It took two months, but we finally have the first really good comedy of 2012.