Take away the gratuitous frontal nudity, clean up the language and Wanderlust could be one of those lame 1960s comedies that considered itself oh, so daring for mentioning LSD or birth control pills. Rather than Sandra Dee this movie stars Jennifer Aniston and, no, the naughty bits juggling aren't hers.
Wanderlust is a lukewarm tub time machine, with neo-hippies sharing lovers and drugs at an idyllic commune in Georgia, of all places. These radicals have only hedonism in mind, not organic farming or any other current cause that such people might be interested in. There isn't even an "Occupy" anything gag, after several movies already hopped on that trend train.
No, director David Wain and his co-writer Ken Marino are content to lay out a silly premise and let it wobble wherever it may. If not for a few choice performance moments and a couple of peppy montages, Wanderlust would be cinematic compost, recycled and thoroughly smelly.
Aniston is all sparkly eyes and coy sexuality as Linda, a woman who hasn't found her niche in Manhattan after a string of disparate career failures. Luckily she's married to George (Paul Rudd), who earns them enough money to settle into a studio apartment — excuse me, "micro-loft," as the Realtor calls it. She's played by former sitcom star Linda Lavin, dripping with sarcasm as one of the film's few highlights.
Then George gets laid-off and the couple evacuates to Atlanta to live with George's obnoxious brother (Marino) and his overly sedated wife (Michaela Watkins, the other good performance). During the road trip George and Linda stop at Elysium, billed as a bed and breakfast but the nudist (Joe Lo Truglio) welcoming them at the gate is a clue to something else going on.
The couple spends the night enjoying a drum circle and various intoxicants with Elysium's residents, including Seth (Justin Theroux), a hirsute stud living so far in the past that he drops cultural references to Nintendo power gloves, Arsenio Hall and fax machines. George and Linda are as intrigued by the lifestyle as she is with Seth and he is with Eva (Malin Akerman). The next morning they leave for Atlanta but will soon return when George's brother becomes too much to bear.
From that point on, Wanderlust is little more than a will-he, won't-she sexual farce without the sex. Aniston and Theroux are lovers in real life, and although the chemistry creeps into their characters, when the chips are down and the clothes come off Wain's camera is in another room. True love will win the day but not before a lot of wheel-spinning comedy and unattractive nudity in slo-mo.
Wanderlust encourages a few smiles, an occasional chuckle but never the kind of convulsive laughter or shock that this material could invite. Rudd is always fine at playing nonplussed and Aniston is eminently watchable but the movie just wanders, without much lust.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365.