Is there a more likable actor than Paul Rudd? Watching him, no matter whether the movie is good, bad, or mediocre, is almost always a treat. At least for me it is. There's something about him that gives him that every-day-man quality. I just enjoy watching him act. His improvisational skills are fantastic. There are numerous scenes in 'Wanderlust' where you can tell that he's just been given a free reign to do whatever he wants and it works. This makes 'Wanderlust' yet another delightful Paul Rudd experience.
George (Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) are married. They love living in the heart of New York City, even if that means paying an outrageous mortgage for a studio apartment…err…I mean "Micro Loft." Linda is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. Her flight of fancy when the movie starts is filmmaking, but she's had her hand in so many different careers she just can't stick with one. George goes to a cubical farm, like many people do, and works 9 – 5 every day. That is until his business and its CEO are seized by the feds. Now George is out of work, Linda's filmmaking career is going nowhere, and now they have to move out of their expensive new place in New York and go live with George's brother (Ken Marino) in Atlanta.
On their way to Atlanta George and Linda stop at a bed and breakfast called Elysium. They soon find out that the place is a commune of hippies, who prefer the term "intentional community." So, that's the set-up. On the outside it seems rather generic in its premise. How do George and Linda, creatures of the city, meld with people who practice the sharing of all material possessions and the idea of free love? With anyone else in the role of George, maybe the movie wouldn't be as fun. It's that effortless Rudd charisma that keeps the movie flowing.
George and Linda decide that they want to stay in the commune because the world is a cruel place and going to work every day, eight hours a day, is for suckers.
After George and Linda make their decision, the movie simply glides through a series of hilarious hippie vignettes that more or less merge into a thin narrative. These really could end up being a series of 'SNL'-type shorts – hippies having trouble operating cars; nudist hippies; hippies going through natural birth; hippies tripping on acid – but what makes it fun is the way Rudd reacts to the situations placed in front of him.
Rudd really is the crux of the whole movie. Without him I'm afraid the movie wanders off into the mundane. He carries the jokes and the situations. Whenever characters are acting on screen and he's not around the movie seems less enjoyable.
'Wanderlust' follows the basic outline of an R-rated rom-com. First, the gimmick is setup, then comes the acceptance of a new life choice, then the eventual fight and finally the making up. We already know how this age-old story is going to play out, so what we're really interested is if the movie is funny. It is.
There's one scene where George tries to psyche himself up to having sex with one of the commune inhabitants played by Malin Ackerman, because it's time that he started practicing this "free love" stuff. He stares at himself in the mirror and then he's let loose. If you saw 'I Love You, Man,' and you remember the "Slappa da bass man," part then this scene will have you rolling. It's like "Slappa da bass," but a hundred times more crude. It works though, because Rudd is a master at improvisation. You can tell that the scene isn't really scripted, how could it be? For a solid minute Rudd stares at himself in the mirror and recites some of the most vulgar, yet hilarious encouragements any man has ever given himself before having sex. 'Wanderlust' is funny simply because Rudd is the right man for the job. He's able to sell the movie's gimmick with ease.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Wanderlust' is a Universal release. It comes in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack complete with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The Blu-ray is a 50GB disc. There are two cuts provided on here. One is the theatrical release (1 hr. 38 min.) and the other is call The Bizarro Cut (1 hr. 20 min.). We'll talk more about it in the special features section. There is also a cardboard slipcover provided which features the same artwork as the case.
Universal's 1080p transfer of 'Wanderlust' looks exactly like what a brand new, light-hearted rom-com should look like. It's clean, clear, and doesn't feature many, if any, artifacting distractions.
The picture is bright and the colors are warm. The warm color palette is bolstered by the lush greenery of the woods surrounding Elysium. Skin tones may be a little orange in some cases, but most rom-coms that come out nowadays tend to have that. It seems to simply be the byproduct of a warmer color palette. Lines are crisp and fine detail is quite nice, although I did notice a few softer shots, particularly during back and forth conversations, that seemed a bit out of place (side note: when a group of nudists go storming down a hill, you might wish that the visual presentation wasn't as clear as it is).
As far as artifacts, I didn't notice any glaring ones. There are a few instances of shimmering, but everything else that would distract is non-existent. There's no source noise to speak of and I didn't catch a hint of banding or aliasing either. If you were expecting a clean and clear high-def picture then you're going to get it.
'Wanderlust' comes to Blu-ray with a nice-sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. It's hard to quantify the audio presentation of rom-coms on Blu-ray since most of the new ones (filmed in the last few years) all sound more or less the same. It's not like they have a whole lot of action going on to perk up the ears, but they do what they're supposed to do, well (usually). 'Wanderlust' is the same way.
Here we're given a fairly strong surround sound experience considering that the movie doesn't really lend itself to a lot of audio pyrotechnics. The dialogue, of which there is a lot, is clear and concise. It's especially important in this movie since this is one of those comedies where many of the funny lines are whispered or said off screen – think 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall.'
Elysium is a busy place with hippies frolicking in the grassy fields that surround it. Laughs, light conversation, and errant guitar music can be heard in the surrounds. There are a few times in the movie where the entire community gathers together which causes the rear channels to have a good bit of commotion going on. LFE is slim, but that's to be expected. There are a few songs on the soundtrack and some sound effects that require low-end accompaniment, but it's just that, there's really no rumbling of the walls to speak of but you really weren't expecting that anyway. 'Wanderlust' sounds exactly how it's supposed to sound on Blu-ray. It isn't going to blow you away, but it presents the movie like it was presented theatrically.
'Wanderlust's success rests on the shoulders of Paul Rudd, who seems to effortlessly carry the movie's somewhat forced gimmick. If you're looking for a few good belly laughs then this is the movie for you. I really enjoyed it. The video and audio are both nicely done. There's a wide variety of extras, including that other cut of the movie, which while it is awkward at times it's still fun to watch the alternate takes and lines they did for different scenes. All in all, Universal's release of 'Wanderlust' is recommended.