And while Wain's comedy has skewed a little bit more delicious immature and stupid (in a good way) than Apatow's signature blend of heart and potty humor, "Wanderlust" strikes the perfect mix and yet still feels like an entirely Wain-ian effort (as if Apatow only gave a few nurturing notes, but then signed off and said, "This is good to go").
George and Linda (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) are two New Yorkers approaching their 40s, still part of the grinding metropolitan rat race, and they feel it's about time they owned some property. After much debate, they finally concede and settle on a tiny shoe box studio apartment in the West Village -- the neighborhood they most desire, despite not actually being able to really afford it. Things quickly take a turn for the worse when the financial company that George works for (and despises) is shuttered on charges of fraud. And it doesn't get much better for Linda whose recent flight of vocational fancy -- a documentary on penguins in the arctic with testicular cancer -- is summarily dismissed by HBO as being too dark and depressing.
But things in Atlanta with the overbearing Rick and his booze-sozzled wife Marissa (Michaela Watkins) aren’t exactly inviting. After unsuccessfully attempting to work for his older brother's lucrative port-a-potty company, George and Linda quickly abandon ship and head back to the peace, tranquility and camaraderie of Elysium, which leads the city dwelling couple to accept the ways of the commune, including partaking in local chores and tasks, but also psychedelics, free love and a painful lack of privacy.
Of course, this newfound world and its customs are all amusingly liberating at first for the two protagonists, but it also has its natural adaptation complications -- even competitiveness such as when defacto uber-charismatic spiritual leader Seth (Justin Theroux) takes a shine to Linda, but also tries to paint George as an uncomfortable square who doesn't really belong in the lovey dovey tribe (and this is perhaps a nice reversal as the audience expects Aniston’s character is the one who’s going to revolt against the hippie ideals). Deeper love and true complications are never as emotionally heavy or resonant as they have been in recent Apatow films and mostly feel like familiar second-act complications, but this also isn't "Masterpiece Theater" and every obstacle works well enough.
Another beaming highlight is Marino and Watkins who essentially steal every second on screen as the obnoxious husband and drunken housewife duo. In fact, Rudd and Aniston are essentially the film's weak links, never once doing much out of the ordinary and staying firmly within their familiar film personas, but with such a colorful supporting cast and Rudd's on point improvisation, it hardly matters. In that sense, it’s arguable that every tangent in the film is actually funnier than the two main protagonists, but they’re also the straight-man characters who help indoctrinate the audience into this strange and tree-hugging world.
Story-wise, “Wanderlust” doesn’t break the mold and most plot and tangent threads are fairly unsurprising or banal. When the corporate bad guys come around to rain on the commune’s parade, you aren’t exactly shocked. In fact, the entire endeavor is pretty shaggily written going from one moment to the next without much forethought, but in the end they pull it off and that’s all that really matters. Those looking for deeper connective tissues in the film probably just need to pass on this one and or log-in time at your local arthouse theater instead.
A mix of good-natured and congenial spirit, plus some good dick gags and LSD-soaked absurdist moments, “Wanderlust” definitely doesn’t rewrite the rules of comedy or the vulgar/sweet idiom that Judd Apatow has cultivated over the years, but it’s also a bit more tart, and in that way a bit more David Wain. Crowd-pleasing without being mundane, “Wanderlust” is a disposable riff on challenging the conventional notions of how we should live our lives, and the (sometimes) artificial escapes a lack of restrictions can release into them. And it's an enjoyable little riff at that. [B]