‘Wanderlust’ and ‘This Means War’ Keep Things Light

By Tim Posada, 3/01/2012



Fast life in New York can’t be easy, especially for George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston). But there is hope, if you’re willing to live in perhaps the most recession-proof community ever, a commune, or an “intentional community” as Seth (Justin Theroux) calls it in “Wanderlust”, which makes hippie life appealing with just enough laughs to keep the pace alive.

Paul Rudd stars as George (center), and Jennifer Aniston appears as Linda (second from left), in Universal Pictures’ “Wanderlust”. (photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Unable to support themselves and recently freed from those pesky jobs that just hold people back, Linda and George leave the big city for the evil realm of George’s brother, Rick (Ken Marino), the suburbs. After a long drive they meet nudist Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio), but he’s only the first of many characters who live in a hippie community full of hallucinogenic drugs, free love and all the greens you can grow yourself. Just beware of Wayne’s personally-made wine and all the doorless bathrooms. Deciding to stay, these city folk must determine if their marriage can survive without the luxuries of the city.

The last time we saw director David Wain’s work on the big screen was 2008’s “Role Models”. Rudd and Sean William Scott remain on top, as far as comparisons go, but “Wanderlust” isn’t without its charms. Rudd remains the master of awkward moments, outdoing himself by practicing dirty talk in front of a mirror in preparation for some of that free lovin’ with Eva (Malin Akerman). As for Aniston, she doesn’t top her “Horrible Bosses” role, but she’s at least watchable.

“Wanderlust’s” concept is clearly appealing: a Bohemian utopia juxtaposing mobile technology, steak for dinner and individual privacy. To do this right, the film must be about the various personalities in such an environment, and there are quite a few quirky people here. Pretentious hippie leader, Seth, is everything obnoxious about the neo-star child movement: a ridiculous caricature, who receives too much attention as he loudly preaches the alternative doctrine, with heavy emphasis on sex and drugs.

From there we’ve got a pregnant woman who handles labor on her own, an ex-porn star and a forgetful founder who sneaks into town to eat meat. Marino wonderfully plays a condescending rich guy (conveniently named Rick), using a character type he mastered in “Role Models”. It is ludicrous that anyone would ever act like this (I hope), but it makes for some truly uncomfortable idiocy.

The film could use more laughs, especially in an R-rated comedy where the expectations are much higher for a mix of crude and random humor, but it is still an entertaining endeavor that attempts to tackle new territory.

“This Means War”

Director McG has better luck as a television producer with incredibly enjoyable shows like “Supernatural”, “Chuck” and “Nikita”, but when it comes to films, he’s a gamble. “Terminator Salvation” had its moments, and the “Charlie’s Angels” remakes acquired modest audiences, but “This Means War” is somewhere in the middle. The director clearly knows how to find sexy stars like Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, but the chemistry and even the action in this one don’t quite reach the heights of each actor’s potential.

Despite the handshakes and smiles, it is all out war between best pals Tuck (Tom Hardy, left) and FDR (Chris Pine), who are battling for the same woman (Reese Witherspoon) in Fox Pictures’ “This Means War”. (photo by Kimberley French)

This is “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” in a love triangle. FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are the perfect spy combo: the CIA’s loose cannons who get results –– Jack Bauer would be proud. But when they’re grounded, Tuck decides to try out online dating. Meanwhile Lauren (Witherspoon), who spends too much time at work, finds herself on a coffee shop date with Tuck because quirky friend, Trish (the oh-so-funny “E!” host, Chelsea Handler), creates a profile with some exaggerated personal information.

Things seem fine until Lauren meets FDR and tries her hand at doubling up. When our leading men discover the unfortunate conundrum, (you guessed it) this means war for two best friends with a license to kill. Only two questions remain: who will Lauren choose and will either of these guys survive the battlefield of love?

For a romance-action film, there are far too few action scenes…and not a lot of romance. Much of the film focuses on how FDR and Tuck use their spy training to survey Lauren and sabotage each other’s dates. We’ve got plenty of charm and some enjoyable wit, but the film really needs to be replicated to the “Smith” formula, both in sexual tension and fight scenes. The final product is an odd mix of bland acting from normally stellar performers and random comedic scenes — often thanks to Handler — that never quite go the distance.

Also premiering this weekend:

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (G)

Project X (R)

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (R)

Let the Bullets Fly (NR)

London, Paris, New York (PG-13)

Being Flynn (R)


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