Awkward Comedy

From the Judd Apatow school of comedy comes Wanderlust, a comedy about a city couple that finds themselves living in a rural “intentional community.”  Like most of the films produced by Apatow, Wanderlust features a lot of what you might call “awkward comedy” and a whole lot of scenes that are obviously improvised.  Unfortunately, the comedy tends more towards awkward than it does humorous, and you have got to wade through a lot of unfunny improvisation to get to the very few gems.

The movie opens with George and Linda making the decision to purchase a piece of land for themselves in the metropolis that is New York City.  After all, why not?  He’s about to get a big bonus and her documentary is going to be picked up HBO!  Their lives are just about to take off… or so they think.  Unfortunately, George’s boss is hauled off in handcuffs before he can get his bonus, and HBO won’t touch Linda’s documentary about penguins with testicular cancer with a ten foot pole.  So they sell their studio apartment and head down to Atlanta so that George can take a data entry job offered by his brother; only, they get a little sidetracked.

Justin Theroux as Seth in WanderlustThinking they are going to spend the night at your average bed & breakfast, George and Linda soon find themselves being pursued down the road by a naked man.  His name is Wayne, a nudist who lives as a member of a commune where free love rules, possessions are shared, and experimentation with hallucinogens is commonplace.  They have a great night and decide to return for a two-week trial run after things turn sour with George’s brother in Atlanta.  While there, they find that the community is in danger of being bulldozed in favor of a new casino.  If only the community founder could remember where he put the deed.

At one point in this movie, something gets referred to as “verbal diarrhea.”  I don’t remember exactly what they were talking about, but I wrote down the phrase because I felt it was a fitting, if rather harsh, description for the movie I was watching.  There are many scenes in which characters just talk and talk, sometimes to themselves.  It is very clear that they are improvising and just trying to come up with something funny.  They usually do, but unfortunately that one funny line usually follows several that aren’t.  It must be a challenging task for a Hollywood editor as there is no real good place to cut until the funny bit finally rears its head.

One of the things this movie does have going for it is that it stars Paul Rudd, who is currently one of Hollywood’s top improvisers.  He has a couple of good ones that had me chuckling at my office desk the day after seeing this movie, but he also has some very bad ones, including the worst ever attempt at dirty talk.  This futile attempt at dirty talk is one of the many scenes in this movie that are far more awkward than they are funny.

Perhaps this awkward humor would have worked better had the movie had much of a story to go on, but unfortunately there is none.  There also aren’t really any characters for the audience to get behind.  Sure, you side with Rudd and Jennifer Aniston because of who they are, but as far as their characters are concerned, you can take them or leave them.

Although a few parts did have me laughing, they aren’t worth sitting through the rest of this disappointing comedy.

Wanderlust is rated R for “sexual content, graphic nudity, language and drug use.”  It’s all there, including a scene in which a bunch of nudists run towards the camera in slow motion.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Wanderlust.