It can really mean something about a film’s quality based on the amount of note taking involved. During one’s scant 52 minutes (the so-called “documentary,” Taylor Swift: American Beauty), I may write down three pages of scathing hatred. Where as with this past weekend’s new release, Wanderlust, I jotted down exactly seven things. I guess that says a lot when one film is a glorified PowerPoint presentation and the other is from producer Judd Apatow and the crew behind comedic specialties like Role Models and TV’s The State.
An Apatow production used to mean big bucks at the box office after the onslaught of everything from his own 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up to Anchorman, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and, of course, last year’s brilliant Bridesmaids.
Another thing most of those films had in common was the use of the same cast members. While you wouldn’t say they consisted of a particular comedy troupe per se, it adds to the charm when you see all of the cast members you love having a ball every time together. The same can be said for the films of director David Wain. He too uses many of the same recurring actors, but they’re nowhere near as instantly recognizable as Apatow’s friends; save for star Paul Rudd, of course. It’s also a reunion of sorts for real-life friends Rudd and co-star Jennifer Aniston after having appeared together in The Object of My Affection and her long-running TV show Friends.
While Rudd was never a household name for much of his career, he’s been around since way back in 1995 when he showed up as Cher’s step-brother Josh in Clueless. Any time I rewatch it, it’s completely obvious that Rudd has always been the comedic genius he’s finally getting recognized for. After stealing scenes for years in most of Apatow’s collection, he’s finally maintaining his own star status after the successes of Wain’s own Role Models, I Love You, Man, Our Idiot Brother, and even Dinner for Schmucks to some degree. While he’s best known for showing up in all those Apatow movies, he’s also been in every single Wain film as well. Although Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten are nowhere near the laugh riots that Role Models and Wanderlust are, those still have their moments that remind us exactly why Wain has stuck around for so long and he just keeps getting better with age.
In Wanderlust, we meet George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston), about to sign the dotted line for their new micro-loft in New York’s Greenwich Village. Moving into a one room with a view, they think they’ve both made it to the big time. Until the day that George walks into his office under siege by the FBI. Meanwhile, Linda is off trying to sell her documentary, labeled a cross between An Inconvenient Truth and March of the Penguins. While the HBO execs don’t bite, she comes home to find George on the couch where he informs her that he was just fired.
Now they’re off to find solace in Atlanta, Georgia, where George is taking a job offer under his brother Rick (co-writer Ken Marino). While Rick led George to believe he’s in the construction industry, turns out his business is in the toilet, literally. Rick actually provides portapotties for a living, making six figures, owns a mansion of a house, and may or may not be cheating on his wife Marissa (Michaela Watkins, one of the funniest women to get bumped off Saturday Night Live). Before making it to Rick’s first, they wind up hitting a speed bump at the Elysium Bed & Breakfast, “Where dreams are dispensed daily, bring your own container.” Turns out that Elysium is actually a commune, or as “leader” Seth (Justin Theroux) calls it: an “intentional community.”
Seth is the epitome of the hippy lifestyle and is stuck in an ’80s themed arrested development. The founder of Elysium is actually Carvin (Alan Alda), who can’t remember where he left the deed which Big Business wants to get their grubby hands on in order to use the land to build a new casino. After George and Rick get in a fight and George decides he likes the pot smoking, free loving lifestyle more than Rick’s emotionally bankrupt scenario, he convinces Linda that they should try out Elysium for at least two weeks, and if they decide it’s not for them, they’ll head back to Atlanta and deal with the real world once again. It’s only a matter of time before they both realize that their new living situation may be more than they bargained for, and a few drug addled nights may wake them up to reality more than they ever thought it would.
Hilarity abounds in what is easily one of the year’s best films so far. One liner after one liner spills its way out of the screen and into your collective vocabulary. This is one of those films that is so easily quotable, but you’ll want to see it more than once because you’ll be laughing too hard to hear them all. As hilarious as everyone in the cast is, the most surprising aspect may be how much of a scene-stealer Watkins turns out to be. She has the most hilarious delivery in a long time. But don’t let that sound like I’m putting anyone else down as everyone is bringing their A-game. Including Aniston, who’s finally getting to let loose in her current string of R-rated fare as of late.
The only issue may be with some of the pacing as some sections almost play like extended montages, some scenes literally are montages, and then some sequences tend to run on and on like a Family Guy joke, only making it funnier in the process of course. So go ahead, drink the Wain Kool-Aid and spend some time with the misfits of Elysium and muster up some Wanderlust of your own this weekend.
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures