Paul Rudd stands in front of a bathroom vanity and riffs a string of vulgar, not-very-funny euphemisms for the intercourse he plans to have with Malin Akerman in an outtake in the closing credits of "Wanderlust." It's a part of the process with any Judd Apatow production - raunchy, riffy runs, comic actors firing away in an effort to top each other and what's in the script. Apatow's ethos, "The funniest line wins."
Only they're not funny. The take of him doing this scene in the film isn't amusing either. And Rudd is easily the most experienced member of the Apatow Frat Pack in this cast. If he can't find the humor in this comedy about uptight New Yorkers who drop out on a Georgia commune ("We prefer 'intentional community'"), what chance do his castmates have?
Not much. "Wanderlust," co-starring Jennifer Aniston, Akerman, Justin Theroux and Alan Alda, is a random, tedious and tone-deaf comedy, a feeble recycling of every hippie commune cliche you've ever heard.
The Gergenblatts - George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) - are displaced New Yorkers who lost their shirts and their "micro-loft" (studio apartment) when George's financial company was shut down by the Feds, his bosses thrown in jail for financial malfeasance. Linda, a 40ish sometime documentary filmmaker / children's book author and coffee-shop operator, may shriek "How could you let this happen to us?" But she's been no help, dabbling in a lot of careers and never settling on one or succeeding at any.
"Do you know how hard it is to be married to somebody who hasn't decided on a MAJOR?"
They pack their ancient Honda and putter south to stay with George's obnoxious porta-potty rental tycoon brother Rick (Ken Marino, who co-wrote the script) and Rick's self-medicating wife (Michaela Watkins, amusing). But on the way, George and Linda stumble across Elysium, a commune that operates a bed-and-breakfast. George is taken by it, and drags them back to this community of organic farming, folk singing, drug-using free-loving cliches. They will live in a house with no doors and no privacy under the thumb of the tuned-out guru, Seth, a Jesus-haired caricature played as such by Theroux.
Seth is full of teensy profundities, e.g. "Time is our friend." He's sort of a watered-down version of the aged stoner (Alan Alda) who founded the place, an old man who has learned that "money buys nothing."
First George is into this lifestyle, abandoning his stress, tempted by Miss "We Share EVERYthing" (Akerman). Then he's over it. Of course, by that time, Linda has given herself over to this radical new lifestyle of "truth circles," where every argument is a public event, as is every trip to the toilet.
The idea of rat-racers running off to a "simpler" life is as old as the movies, and the two things co-writers David Wain ("Role Models") and Marino bring to it are nudity - the Full Monty, kids - and crudity. Coming out on the heels of a major American lifestyle shift - the Great Recession - this could cash in thanks to the zeitgeist. But Wain (who directed) has nothing funny to say and Marino can't find a laugh in front of or behind the camera.
Rudd, riffing away out there in the wilderness - or in that bathroom - can't rescue "Wanderlust" with zingers delivered off the top of his head. And Aniston has enough trouble finding a script with a laugh in it, so don't expect her to improve her latest bad career choice on the set.
1 1/2 stars
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman
Directed by David Wain, written by David Wain and Ken Marino. A Universal release. Running time: 1:38
MPAA rating: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use