February 29, 2012

Review: Finding 'Wanderlust'

The folks behind the surprise hit Role Models are back with a city meets farm comedy in Wanderlust. Co-writer/director David Wain uses the backdrop of busy New York City and urban life to juxtapose the comedic elements and fodder of communal farm living.

Wanderlust has most of the staples of the 1990s comedy troupe The State that brought you Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten, Stella, and Reno 911! I think the group, especially writers Wain and Ken Marino, are exceptional at creating, constucting funny scenes, premises, and sketches, but still battle with a larger, full length narrative and how to weave a completely realized plot.

Unlike Role Models, and other comedies from Wain and The State, Wanderlust feels much smaller and stripped down (in a good way) despite the usual, large ensemble cast populating the commune. The narrative is mostly seen through star Paul Rudd's George and how he deals with wife Linda (Jennifer Aniston), his hilariously obnoxious brother (played by co-writer Marino), and his commune living mates.

Rudd and Aniston as a couple ground the film nicely as they slowly switch roles as sarcastic straight man and on the go free spirit, struggling to embrace hippy lifestyle and their desire for the comforts of city living with maintaing strong communal relationships.

Wain avoids easy jokes and lets players like Justin Theroux, Joe Lo Truglio, and Jordan Peele. That trio is allowed to explore the nuances of being a self-involved hippy leader, novel writing nudist winemaker, and dimwitted stoner in amusing individual scenes.

Wanderlust is a fairly standard comedy based on a straightforward premise. It is elevated by strong performances from a great cast with understated writing and direction. A mature look at self-discovering and the falacy of adulthood, Wain and company shed the absurdist quirks in their usual cult hits with mostly positive results.

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