Director David Wain tends to make great comedies that take a while to settle in.
I liked Wet Hot American Summer just fine when I first saw it, and I gave it a happy, if not glowing, review. With repeated viewings, it is now one of my five favorite comedies of all time. It's a classic.
As for The Ten, I ripped into it when it first came out. In preparing for this review, I watched it again ... and laughed hard. So it took about five years for that one to win me over.
Then there's Role Models, the only Wain film I loved instantly. (It was probably because of Seann William Scott's minotaur suit.) It's like most Wain movies come in a slow-release capsule, and I start laughing more and more as the years pass. I imagine I will have a stroke from laughing when I watch The Ten five years from now.
Now comes Wanderlust, with the immortally funny Paul Rudd, who has—thankfully—played a major role in all of Wain's films. Rudd plays George, a politely frustrated Wall Street worker living in a microscopic Manhattan apartment with his documentarian wife, Linda (a funny Jennifer Aniston, Rudd's co-star in The Object of My Affection and Friends).
When George loses his job, and Linda's penguin-cancer documentary is passed over by HBO, they must high-tail it to Atlanta, where George's brother Rick (the always-fabulous Ken Marino, who co-wrote the film with Wain) has promised George a job.
After a funny driving montage, George and Linda wind up spending the night in Elysium, a bed-and-breakfast/commune. After a fun night of pot-smoking and skinny-dipping, they head off to Rick's house—but not for long. Rick's bastard behavior drives them out fast, and they retreat to Elysium to take a crack at dropping out of society.
The great gag here is that George is the one most open to the Elysium idea at first, but that changes as the film progresses. Rudd gets to show that awesome "Evil Rudd" side when George gets frustrated. Rudd seems to be such a nice guy, so it's hilarious whenever he gets nasty and dirty ... and the screenplay allows plenty of this. Rudd's general disdain for Elysium's leader, Seth (Justin Theroux), is comic gold. As for a Rudd moment with a mirror—practicing dirty-talk for possible sexy time with commune resident Eva (Malin Akerman)—it's the best mirror acting since Travis Bickle picked a fight with himself in Taxi Driver. And it only gets funnier when George actually attempts dirty-talk with Eva.
While the premise of Wanderlust is a little tired in spots, it gives Wain a platform to gather a great ensemble, Wet Hot-style. The cast features many members of The State, the legendary comedy troupe that Wain was a big part of. Best of all are a couple of scenes featuring The State offshoot, Stella (Wain's other troupe with Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter), as members of a goofy news show. I would like a whole movie of Stella as news guys, please.
Theroux, who played a memorable Jesus in The Ten and has been writing some big screenplays (Tropic Thunder, Iron Man 2, Rock of Ages) these days, gets a chance to show that his best asset might be his comedic acting ability. His Seth is a classic comedic creep. And it's always good to have Alan Alda in your cast, so huge props for scoring Hawkeye.
The main reason to see Wanderlust is the almighty Rudd, who doesn't disappoint. If my usual pattern for Wain films plays out, I imagine Wanderlust will be making my nose bleed from laughter five years from now.