Wanderlust (2012)
Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Alda, Malin Ackerman

Kevin Smith is kind of famous for making films that just make him laugh. That’s a goal he has stated in some of his spoken-word performances. He says that’s his main focus, just making something that makes him laugh, and since he’s got a captive audience, if he can “whip a little bit of a message” at the audience while still bringing the laughs, he will. For all Adam Sandler’s idiocy, I think he tries to do the same thing, only without any of the smart subtlety Smith often employs, if light-saber bongs can ever be considered subtle.

I mention this because for all their faults as actors and film-makers, at least they’re trying. I’m not saying a film has to have a message or agenda or anything, really, except whatever it is, but if a stupid boogers-and-farts movie is only that, I don’t think you can be terribly disappointed. And when a film puts two married people on the precipice of the lives they’ve known, and then transplants them to a religious commune where they supposedly learn something life-changing, there’s a certain burden on the film to attempt to say something meaningful. Am I wrong?

Maybe I’m wrong. But Wanderlust sets us up for it, putting the ingredients in place, including thoughtful actors like Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and then doesn’t do anything with them. It barely succeeds at being entertaining.

Rudd and Aniston play George and Linda, a successful yuppie couple on the verge of moving into an expensive condo they’ve just purchased. Things fall apart. They both lose their jobs. They’re forced to sell the apartment and move south to live temporarily with George’s crass, filthy-rich brother and his family. They stop on the way at what they think is a hotel of some sort, but it’s really a hippie commune practicing free love.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. At first they’re reluctant to jump into the swing of things, but they end up having a fun time with their new friends. But the commune practices free love and the sharing of all property, and this causes some tension in the marriage. And then blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. We’re supposed to believe that there’s some kind of change within the characters, and then there’s some other kind of revelation. And the commune is threatened, and then things are not as they seem, and then people are not as they seem, and then the characters learn the real lesson of this film, but none of it is interesting or convincing and if it weren’t for the almost inherent likability of the lead actors, this would have direct-to-video written all over it.

Fewer guitar-strumming scenes around a campfire and more conversations between the main characters as they deal with this difficult time in their lives might possibly have saved this, but alas. It raked in a worldwide box office of twenty-one million bucks on a budget of thirty-five million bucks, and it’s difficult to believe it did that well.

3/10 (IMDb rating)
36/100 (Criticker rating)