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Aniston Stays Dressed, Rudd Doesn’t in ‘Wanderlust’: Greg Evans

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"Wanderlust"
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in "Wanderlust." The film is about a Manhattan couple who explore alternative living arrangements. Photographer: Gemma La Mana/Universal Studios via Bloomberg

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Old stoner jokes get rehashed in “Wanderlust,” a Paul Rudd-Jennifer Aniston comedy whose charms are as elusive as a puff of smoke.

Seeming less written than improvised and assembled, the film reteams Rudd with director David Wain in their follow-up to the 2008 comedy hit “Role Models.”

Despite some nudity (not Anniston’s, despite the cheesy publicity), “Wanderlust,” produced by Judd Apatow among others, has neither the rude aggression of “Role Models” nor the outrageous laughs of Apatow’s last blockbuster, “Bridesmaids.”

Rudd and Aniston play George and Linda, Manhattan newlyweds on the cusp of success when his job loss sends them on a road trip to family in Atlanta. Veering off course for an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast, they discover Elysium, a hippie commune with attitudes and fashion frozen in 1971.

After a quick, unpleasant visit in Atlanta with George’s obnoxious brother (Ken Marino, who co-wrote with Wain), they hightail it back to Elysium, despite Linda’s misgivings.

“I like doors,” she says, setting up a running gag that has a goat, a horse and a nude man, among other intruders, drifting through the uptight couple’s bedroom.

Hippie Charms

Soon enough, Linda has succumbed to the charms of the hippies -- one in particular: the handsome, smarmy, aphorism-spouting leader (Justin Theroux). “You can’t express your feelings by sending a letter through a fax,” says the out-of-touch Seth, railing against such “modernisms” as floppy discs and Walkmans.

Manhattan starts looking better to George, who quickly tires of Elysium’s zany residents, including an angry ex-porn star (Kathryn Hahn), the rambling old hippie who founded the commune (Alan Alda) and a pregnant Earth-mother (Lauren Ambrose).

“He’s an African-American,” says Ambrose’s Almond by way of introducing her partner Rodney (Jordan Peele), “and we’re just as much in love as if we were the same color.”

Such flat-footed dialogue makes cartoons of the characters, and a weak plot about local casino owners trying to grab the commune’s land plays like an afterthought.

Coasting yet again on his boyish likeability, Rudd at least makes George’s growing disenchantment credible. Aniston jumps from city slicker to moonchild so quickly one suspects heavy editing. A scene of her character in bed with two women, featured prominently in TV ads, isn’t in the film.

“Wanderlust” from Universal Pictures is playing across the U.S. Rating: **


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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