- - Thursday, February 23, 2012

The newest model off the production line at the Judd Apatow comedy factory is “Wanderlust,” your basic fish-out-of-water sendup.

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play George and Linda, two out-of-work Manhattanites forced to hit the road when they can no longer afford their chic but tiny West Village apartment. George is some kind of financial-sector drudge, whose company is shut down after a scandal. Linda is a flighty dilettante, who can never settle on a career, to the chagrin of her husband.

While driving to Georgia to stay with George’s brother Rick (Ken Marino, who co-wrote the script), they alight upon a quirky roadside bed & breakfast that is also a commune (or “intentional community”) populated by a riotous cast of hippie characters — free-love enthusiasts, acid freaks, nudists, vegans, natural-childbirth advocates and possibly some other soft countercultural targets I may have missed.

When life with Rick proves intolerable, George and Linda return to the commune — called Elysium — and decide to give this new way of life a chance. Trying to squeeze comic juice out of Mr. Rudd’s nice-guy persona, the movie shows him pushed to the edge of breaking — by Elysium’s lack of privacy, group leader Seth’s (Justin Theroux) interest in his wife, and the efforts of slinky blonde Eva (Malin Akerman) to lure him into an assignation.

There are a few cute set pieces here. Mr. Rudd’s lurid and discomfiting efforts to psyche himself up for a bit of sanctioned infidelity plays like an authentic bit of improv. Seth’s awareness of technology is restricted to items like two-way pagers and programmable VCRs that existed before his self-imposed exile — a motif that is good for a few laughs. Alan Alda is competent but largely wasted as the commune’s burnt-out founder, Carvin, who seems trapped in a permanent LSD flashback.

The story of how George and Linda discover some uncomfortable truths about their relationship is basically window dressing. What drives “Wanderlust” is Mr. Apatow’s signature mix of gratuitous male nudity, stoner jokes and sexual humiliation. It isn’t exactly a classic, but it’s a slightly funnier than average example of the genre.


TITLE: “Wanderlust”

CREDITS: Directed by David Wain. Written by Mr. Wain and Ken Marino

RATING: R for unending nudity, sexual situations and profanity

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes


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