“Wanderlust” Is a Bust

It’s 7 p.m. at the opening Friday night of the new Judd Apatow-produced comedy “Wanderlust,” starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston. Normally, these three names automatically bring in a full house of people ready to laugh, but this time, I turn around in my seat and only see about 12 other people in the audience. Twenty minutes into the movie, I’m close to making the already small number of people in the theater whittle down by one more. Allow me to explain.

“Wanderlust” marks the first time Rudd and Aniston share the big screen together since 1998’s “The Object of My Affection.” Has their charming chemistry been captured again over a decade later?

Sort of. In “Wanderlust,” the pair plays a married couple who fails to stay afloat in an expensive New York world. Naturally, they decide to move to a commune in the middle of nowhere, where they make friends with a community of all-too-welcoming nudists and hippies — think Coachella, minus the music, and add a few more shady characters.

Rudd shines as George, the likable, try-anything-once, all-around nice guy. We’re used to him playing this character, but it is always a pleasure to see.

Aniston does a solid job as well in her portrayal of Linda, also a familiar character type: She begins the film uptight, but halfway through, she starts to loosen up and have a good time. Linda is the character that Aniston, Katherine Heigl and Cameron Diaz have been taking turns portraying for the past three or four years.

The lead couple is acceptable, but the problems in the film begin with the supporting cast. None of the other characters in “Wanderlust” have a shred of authenticity to them. The other commune-dwellers are supposed to come off as fun and interesting with just a hint of creepy, but the only one of those characteristics that translates to the screen is the creep factor. Other characters are used simply as cutouts of the problems of modern society — they are given no personality other than what is needed to push the plot forward.

It’s a shame that more attention isn’t paid to creating believable characters in this film because it is full of talented comedic actors, such as Joe Lo Truglio (“I Love You Man”) and Kathryn Hahn (“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”), who do their best despite the lack of interesting material they have to work with.

The film gets a few laughs, mostly from Rudd’s fantastic improv scenes and funny facial expressions. The plot itself is nothing new, and there was an audible yawn behind me halfway through the movie. It’s rated R, probably due to a few unfunny full-frontal nude scenes.

“Wanderlust” is meant for the avid Apatow-comedy lover. Anyone who enjoyed “Bridesmaids,” “Superbad” or “Pineapple Express” is supposed to appreciate this film, but what those movies have that this one doesn’t can be summed up in one word: truth.

At the heart of most of these movies, the plot unfolds from the decisions characters make. “Wanderlust” takes the opposite approach, in which the plot of commune life is most important and the main characters just have to go through the motions of it because that’s what the movie is about, even though it ultimately makes no sense for them to do so.

If you want to catch the best part of this movie, go see something else and then walk in at the end to watch the gag reel.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5