Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Wanderlust

I can usually find entertainment in just about any movie (excluding anything starring Sarah Jessica Parker), so it’s a rare occasion that a film agitates me so much that I start to feel downright hostile.  I had survived some real clunkers these past few months  - Apollo 18, Drive Angry, The Darkest Hour, and of course the immortal Jack and Jill – so I was feeling relatively safe with a Judd Apatow produced comedy starring Paul Rudd.  After all, who didn’t love Anchorman, Knocked Up, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall? 

Wanderlust follows the journey of Rudd’s George and Jennifer Aniston’s Linda as they flee financial ruin and the New York City rat race in search of a new life.  Their journey takes them to an isolated commune in Georgia where a band of misfits live practicing veganism, smoking marijuana, playing guitars, and completely annihilating any sense of personal boundaries.  Does any of this sound like fun?

The problem with the movie is that it purports itself a romantic comedy but is completely devoid of both sentiment and humor.  Rule number one to a romcom is that you actually have to root for the protagonists who are usually fighting any number of obstacles to get together.  I spent two thirds of the movie urging Paul Rudd to just bounce.  Rule number two to a romantic comedy is that the cast must feature a likable bunch that adds levity and laughter to the narrative.  Unfortunately no one fits this bill and each time you start to think that perhaps there is someone, said person goes and does something completely crude or asinine to remind you that you’re watching cinematic rubbish.

I have come to realize that my faith in Apatow’s work is unfounded and really based on past laurels.  In the past five years, he has been attached to nine projects – five (Wanderlust, Funny People, Pineapple Express, Drillbit Taylor, Year One) of which I felt were horrible; two (Step Brothers, The Five-Year Engagement) of which I thought were less than stellar; and only two (Bridesmaids, Get Him to the Greek) that I felt were entertaining.  As you can see, this is not exactly a winning track record.  The problem then with Wanderlust is really the continuing trend of mediocrity for Apatow and his productions.

The cast isn’t given much to work with and in return they don’t bring much to the table.  Paul Rudd is on cruise control delivering the same performance he has given a dozen times, but this time sans the earnestness that makes his characters so endearing.  Likewise, Jennifer Aniston delivers her usual performance – the same one that for the last ten years has failed to resonate with cinematic audiences.  Kathryn Hahn almost literally copies and pastes her performance from Our Idiot Brother; Malin Akerman serves only as eye candy; and Justin Theroux’s Seth literally made me want to throw the remote control at the television.

Every good actor eventually makes a poor choice.  Al Pacino had Jack and Jill; Leonardo DiCaprio had J. Edgar; Matt Damon had Hereafter (ditto for director Clint Eastwood).  Wanderlust is Paul Rudd’s faux pas.  I suggest you avoid this movie at all costs and as you go forward in life exercise extreme caution any time a new Judd Apatow movie crosses your path, because you’re more likely to find yourself disappointed than entertained.  Here’s hoping that Apatow and Rudd can right this wrong with the forthcoming This is 40.  I for one am not particularly optimistic.

Standout Performance: Alan Alda brings nothing to the table in this movie, but he doesn’t do anything prolifically wrong so that earns him this distinction. 


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