Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Malin Akerman, Alan Alda, David Wain, Justin Theroux, Ray Liotta
David Wain, Ken Marino
11-minute featurette called Journeys that features extended interviews
Paul Rudd has an incredible knack for finding himself in "almost" films.
Almost box-office successes.
Almost "on the mark."
This may be why Rudd finds himself "almost" a star, a respected actor with undeniable talent who continues to dwell on the B-list largely because of the material he chooses time and time again.
If the problem is his agent, he needs to find himself a new one. If he's the problem, then it's time for some serious cinematic soul searching.
Wanderlust is Rudd's latest "almost" film, a film that is occasionally laugh out loud funny but also a film that frequently misses the mark and by midway through the film has wimped out before truly leaving its mark. Rudd stars alongside Jennifer Aniston, another "almost" performer but to an even lesser degree, as a married couple whose materialistic lives comes screeching to a halt when Rudd's George finds himself downsized in corporate America. As a result, he and his filmmaker wife, Linda 9 (Aniston), lose their studio apartment and are forced to take shelter with George's ego-driven brother. Eventually, they land at nature's doorstep, also known as Elysium, an intentional community of seemingly free-spirited individuals where both responsibility and clothing are optional.
Wanderlust may very well be a sister film to co-writer/director David Wain's Wet Hot American Summer, which could certainly be considered a greater critical success and enjoys quite the cult following. Rudd has made three films now with Wain, and the two obviously have been able to tap into each other's comic vibe. The problem with Wanderlust doesn't feel like it comes from Wain or Rudd, but likely from studio interference that may result in Wain's biggest commercial success but will also come with obvious compromise of artistic integrity.
There are moments, especially in the film's first half, where Wanderlust feels like pure Wain with both raunchy and hilarious results. Despite the raunch, there's a spirit in Wanderlust that's a joy to experience and watching spirit and sensuality intertwine is quite fun. This also feels like it could be a sister performance for Aniston to her off-kilter and bawdier turn in Horrible Bosses, though rumor has had it that her boyfriend, and Wanderlust co-star Justin Theroux, requested that she nix her more revealing scenes in the film. That said, Wanderlust again shows us a naughtier, more spirited Aniston that features a more relaxed and appealing Aniston.
Paul Rudd is good here, and occasionally very good, but was far more successful in last year's Our Idiot Brother, an underrated gem that deserved a much greater audience than it ever found. The two films share a certain spiritual connection, but Our Idiot Brother remained faithful to its mission while Wanderlust detours into a sort of free love free-for-all that is raunchier but less funny and much less interesting to watch unfold. It's only the strength of Rudd, Aniston and Theroux that helps to sell the film when it feels like the soul of the film has been compromised.
Theroux may actually be best served by his appearance here, going off in a direction we haven't seen much from him and doing so quite successfully. Aniston is also quite good, but this is a role that seems tailor made for that Aniston weaving together of spirited woman and "girl next door" that she pulls off so effortlessly.
Wanderlust is a decent film, and I doubt that Rudd, Aniston or Wain fans will be disappointed by the effort. But, the simple truth is that the film is yet another "almost" film for everyone involved. When it comes to spending your hard-earned cash at the theatre, let's face it, "almost" isn't good enough.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic