Albert Brooks may have been snubbed for a Drive Oscar nom, but he can take some comfort that his influence is suddenly everywhere. Judd Apatow cast the legend as Paul Rudd’s dad in the forthcoming This is 40. Meanwhile another Apatow-Rudd production boasts a premise that’s downright A. Brooksian. In Wanderlust, two flustered yuppies (Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) drop out of society. That’s the beginning of Lost in America, too, but instead of buying a Winnebago and losing their “nest egg” in a crazy-eyed Las Vegas gambling jag, the two become sucked into a bed-and-breakfast-cum-hippie-commune. (Sorry: “intentional community.”) There, at least initially, they find the sharp contrast between their busy Manhattan lives—devoted to comically cramped living quarters and fair trade coffee—and their new weed-ier, nude digs intoxicating.
The career trajectories of David Wain, Wanderlust’s co-writer/director, and Brooks are superficially similar: Both broke through in short-form comedy, Wain as the least visible enfant terrible of The State (read: he logged in most of his hours on writing and production). However, Wain is only slightly interested in satire, and a lot more warm. Hippies are an easy joke, and Wanderlust more than fills its quota, with Justin Theroux chewing scenery as a long-hair pansexual god, commune grandfather Alan Alda nonsensically insisting that “money literally buys nothing” and Joe Lo Truglio bouncing around as a starkers vintner.
Wanderlust proves that Wain’s Role Models was no fluke: that he’s been reborn as a filmmaker who makes sketchy premises work through sheer gumption. Odd diversions abound, like a scene that takes the cliche of tearing up business cards to absurdist extremes or a local news report that devolves into sexual harassment. It also, like Models, capitalizes on the wonderful spectacle of Rudd at his most miserable. Even in the mad throes of hippiedom, tripping her balls off atop a tree branch, Aniston functions mostly as a straight man, not only to her zonked-out co-stars but also Rudd, who finds himself increasingly averse to mud coffee, a total lack of bathroom privacy, impromptu porch births and placenta-soup. Fill your comedy with enough bits like Rudd’s batshit insane, instant classic mirror monologue or Michaela Watkins’ surprisingly inspired twist on a Margarita-soaked aging trophy wife and it doesn’t matter if, like Role Models, it could always be even better.
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