New on DVD: Wanderlust (2012)

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Ever since his genius comic riffing in I Love You, Man, KC native Paul Rudd has been Hollywood’s go-to guy for off-the-cuff hilarity.

He’s at it again in Wanderlust, a dork-among-the-hippies comedy. In fact, Rudd is the main reason to check it out.

Rudd plays George, who with his wife Linda (Jennifer Aniston) is trying to make ends meet in the tough world of Manhattan. As the film begins they are completing the purchase of a condo – actually a closet-sized studio – and dreaming of life as property owners.

But George loses his job and Linda’s plan to sell her documentary film (about penguins with testicular cancer) collapses. Soon they’re on the road to Atlanta to crash with George’s boorish brother, a porta-potty king.

Looking for a bed and breakfast, they stumble into Elysium, an old-style commune in the Georgia woods that’s absolutely overflowing with pot-puffing, Frisbee-tossing, granola-munching, downward-dogging, instrument-strumming, walk-around-stark-naked bunch of latter-day hippies.

This is a place where livestock call the shots (they’re safe with all these vegans) and where the doorways have no doors (not even in the bathroom) because doors are exclusionary.

Elysium was founded 40 years earlier by the now-forgetful Carvin ( Alan Alda), but the current alpha male and guru-in-residence is the hairy Seth (Justin Theroux), who plays a mean guitar and appears not to have dealt with any technology newer than an 8-track tape.

Bit by bit the dubious New Yorkers find themselves sucked into this community of happy, starry-eyed slackers. They even find themselves buying (after a reluctant start) into the commune’s free love policy.

Linda hits it off with the preening Seth. George can’t believe his luck when the gorgeous Eva (Malin Akerman) announces her intentions of bedding him.

Problem is, George is hopelessly monogamous. The film’s high point is an extended comic improvisation as Rudd/George stares into a mirror and gives himself a sexual pep talk, trying to imagine what he might say to impress Eva with his male prowess.

It’s a scream.

The rest of the film? Eh. It’s just OK.

Writer/director David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models) has a pleasantly raunchy sense of humor that embraces full frontal nudity (both sexes) and rude sexual dialogue. (Wanderlust was produced by Judd Apatow of Knocked Up fame, so you’ve been warned.)

There are some mildly amusing observations on blissed-out stoners (it’s not like we haven’t seen it all before) and some fairly trenchant observations on how couples can turn on one another when the going gets rough.

In short, Wanderlust is no big deal. But if you’re not easily offended and could use some low-brow comic relief, it’ll do.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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