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(2012) (Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston) (R)

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Comedy: After they end up unemployed, a married couple decides to try living on a rural commune where free love reigns.
George (PAUL RUDD) and Linda (JENNIFER ANISTON) are a married couple who have just bought a micro-loft in Manhattan. But when his boss is arrested by the FBI and her documentary film is turned down by HBO, George and Linda find themselves unemployed and thus hit the road for Atlanta. There, they'll live with and George will work for his racist, demeaning and highly competitive brother, Rick (KEN MARINO), and that man's long-suffering wife, Marissa (MICHAELA WATKINS), who drowns her rich lifestyle in one margarita after another.

Along the way, however, George and Linda end up spending the night at a remote bed and breakfast that turns out to be hippie-style commune. Founded decades ago by Carvin (ALAN ALDA) -- whose mind isn't exactly clear due to past acid use -- the place is now lead by Seth (JUSTIN THEROUX) who welcomes the outsiders after they crash their car trying to back away from the commune's resident nudist, vintner and novelist, Wayne (JOE LO TRUGLIO).

After spending a pleasant if eye-opening night there, they head to Rick's place, only to realize they can't stand it and thus return to the commune, with the plan that they'll give it a two-week tryout. That's appealing to Seth who obviously wants to apply the group's free love mentality to Linda, while Eva (MALIN AKERMAN) wouldn't mind bedding George. Rodney (JORDAN PEELE) obviously already did that with Almond (LAUREN AMBROSE) who's nine months pregnant, while other commune residents, including Karen (KATHRYN HAHN) and Kathy (KERRI KENNEY-SILVER), have their own idiosyncrasies.

As they try to adapt to the unusual lifestyle, George and Linda find their marriage challenged, all while the commune's residents must contend with developers who want to turn their woodsy paradise into a casino.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
With living expenses continually going up faster, in most cases, than personal income, and considering that people are generally living longer nowadays and thus need more support, I wouldn't be surprised if the notion of communal living builds some momentum. After all, by joining financial forces, "honey do" lists and other such day to day needs and necessities with others, some figure life might be a little easier.

Heck, young people do it all of the time (during and after college to hold down individual costs), and long ago, multiple generations of families -- with some close friends occasionally thrown in for good measure -- managed to get along and make things work, sharing the chores and such.

Of course, if you mention the common term for that lifestyle -- "commune" -- some people immediately think of 1960s era "free" living, with sex, drugs and rock 'n roll ruling the day. While such groupings had their heyday nearly a half century ago, I'm guessing some have managed to survive over the decades, mostly underground so as to not draw undue attention to them.

Such is the case in the comedy "Wanderlust" where a Manhattan couple (Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd) suddenly find themselves unemployed and unable to pay for their "micro loft." Accordingly, and after realizing they can't live with the man's jerk of a brother, they decide to experiment residing on a rural commune in order to get by. Wanna guess what happens once they realize that the aforementioned '60s lifestyle is still swinging?

Writer/director David Wain and co-writer Ken Marino (who made their biggest splash with 2008's "Role Models") trot out just about every hippie & commune cliché they could come up with, but do so without any genuine laughs. Yes, there is a smattering of slightly amusing moments, but I'm guessing the other critics who are giving this cinematic flotsam positive reviews either wish they lived in such a place or are having happy flashbacks to some such similar past lifestyle.

Whoever would have guessed there'd be drug jokes in such a film, especially with the requisite "let's experience the hallucinatory effects with them" moment (when pot is otherwise being inhaled)? Hey, I know, let's make sure we include the "free love" material to jolt the uptight and bickering urbanites out of their traditional, big city funk. And yes, we must include nudists because, as I'm sure you're fully aware, nothing is funnier than seeing older, out of shape people traipsing about or, better yet, running in slow motion sans any clothes.

I'm guessing the filmmakers must have been under the influence of some sort of mind-altering substance to make them think this recycled and unimaginative material is funny. And no, I'm not some prude looking down my holier than thou nose at such content, as I can laugh along with the best of them in gutter level material. But that's only if it's creative, imaginative and -- most importantly -- funny, and very little of it is here.

The usually reliable Rudd does his best to make something of this sort of content, mostly as the bewildered, beleaguered or simply perturbed outsider trying to make sense and/or occasionally fit in with the commune lifestyle. That includes two montages -- presumably improvised to some degree -- where he rehearses and then delivers his seduction lines of trying to take up one resident's (Malin Akerman) offer of "free love." Some might find his verbal riff funny, but then again I grew out of that, oh, not long after my middle school years.

Aniston continues to prove that her best work was long ago on "Friends" (and her much publicized nudity here boils down to some pixilated views of her topless), but at least she found her latest beau working on the film with costar Justin Theroux (as the long-haired, wisdom spewing leader). Co-writer Marino works hard trying to get laughs as a racist, competitive jerk, but comes up short, although Michaela Watkins gets a smattering of amusing lines as his long-suffering spouse.

Alan Alda can't do much with his material that has him all over the map, while Joe Lo Truglio figuratively and literally lets it all hang out as the commune's full-time nudist, vintner and novelist. The rest of the cast members make little to no impression, including a brief extended cameo by Linda Lavin as a loan officer.

The one saving grace of comedic fiascos like this usually is the end credits, where some of the funniest material often ends up. Alas, even that's not the case here, with just a few scenes repeating essentially the same jokes. Long before they're done or even roll, you'll likely be wishing all of those involved had dropped out of society to live on their own commune and thus not subjected the rest of us to this particularly unfunny comedy. If old, recycled jokes about the hippie lifestyle are your thing, knock yourself out. If not, it's unlikely you'll be lusting for the "comedic" offerings of "Wanderlust." It rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed February 22, 2012 / Posted February 24, 2012

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