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Is Jennifer Aniston a “Wanderlust” Cause?

February 22, 2012

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Jennifer Aniston made a funny movie. Oh, that’s right, you can’t, because she hasn’t—at least not since 1999’s Office Space (okay, I’ll admit a personal fondness for 2003’s Bruce Almighty, but she wasn’t all that funny in it). So no one is more surprised than me to report that Wanderlust, the new comedy reuniting her with The Object of My Affection‘s Paul Rudd and Alan Alda, is genuinely, uproariously entertaining.

Cowritten and directed by David Wain and featuring many alums of his cult-favorite camp classic Wet Hot American Summer, the balls-out social satire also shares that film’s backwoods setting, only this time it’s home to a hippie-dippie Georgia commune called Elysium that downwardly mobile NYC refugees George and Linda (Rudd and Aniston) stumble upon. You’d never know it from the crass commercials, which prominently feature Aniston is an all-girl four-way that didn’t make the movie’s final cut, but Wanderlust is a nuanced, humane comedy with a plethora of finely drawn characters.

At this point, the film is most notable for having introduced Aniston to real-life love Justin Theroux, and you can certainly sense the attraction between them on screen. The actor-writer (Iron Man 2) is hugely amusing as Seth, the community’s passive-aggressive leader, a wolf in sheep’s clothing who’s got the wool pulled over almost everyone’s eyes. (Wanderlust often plays like a mock Martha Marcy May Marlene.)

The estimable ensemble includes most of Wain’s old troupe the State, including Kerri Kenney-Silver, Michael Ian Black, Joe Lo Truglio and cowriter Ken Marino; Comedy Central sketch artists Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele; Theroux’s ex-Six Feet Under costar Lauren Ambrose; brilliant stand-up Todd Barry; and unjustly dismissed SNL genius Michaela Watkins, who swipes her every scene as Rudd’s dipsomaniac sister-in-law (if you can’t get enough of her, stay to see her hysterical coda after the closing credits).

Aniston, who’s done great comedic work on TV—not just on Friends, but on the underrated Fox skitcom The Edge—holds her own with this gifted group, and she’s got real chemistry with Rudd. But the movie’s biggest laughs come from M*A*S*H vet Alda—who seems to be having the time of his life as the commune’s dotty elder statesman—and Rudd. Though he’s done some lame movies lately (Dinner with Shmucks, My Idiot Brother), he’s back on track here, especially in a scene in front of a mirrror, when he’s trying to psych himself up to make free love to the delectable Malin Akerman, that’s like Taxi Driver‘s “You Talkin’ To Me?” scene with dick jokes.

If that doesn’t sound funny to you, this may not be your movie. But if you ate up the combo platter of lowbrow gags and high-quality acting in producer Judd Apatow’s Bridesmaids and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, you’ll fall madly in love with Wanderlust.

Will you give Wanderlust a shot? Or has Jennifer Aniston made too many cinematic dogs (and no, I’m not talking about Marley and Me)?

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4 Comments
  1. I would love to see it, mostly because I love Paul Rudd as a comic actor. I thought My Idiot Brother was great, so this sounds even better!

    • bruceafretts permalink

      I wasn’t a big fan of My Idiot Brother, although it was an improvement over Dinner for Shmucks. But this is Rudd’s funniest film since I Love You, Man, which I loved.

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