Generic rom-com raunchfest focuses on clash between hippies, yuppies

Bill Thomas, Arts & Entertainment Editor

There are two types of people in this world. There are people who hate hippies. And there are hippies.

It’s not the philosophy that rubs folks the wrong way, mind you. It’s the execution. The hippie ethic of peace and love is a worthwhile vision, but the holier-than-thou superiority complex, impractical naiveté and flighty lack of reliability quickly become overbearing and obnoxious.

It’s appropriate, then, that “obnoxious and overbearing” turns out to be an ideal description of “Wanderlust,” the latest comedy dud from producer Judd Apatow and director David Swain.

Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd play Linda and George, a couple of uptight would-be social climbers trying to keep up with the fast pace and high cost of big-city life. When that doesn’t pan out, they pack up their stuff and head out to the suburbs, where George’s insufferable brother offers him a bottom-rung job doing data-entry for a Port-a-Potty rental agency.

Serendipitously, the pair’s pilgrimage instead leads them to a hippie commune, where they decide to trade in their beautifully manicured but meaningless existence of “stress, BlackBerrys and sleeping pills” for a life full of pot-smoking, casual sex and didgeridoos . In other words, paradise. After all, who doesn’t love a didgeridoo?

Unsurprisingly, the high-strung duo’s metropolitan worldview ends up clashing with the hippies’ hardline nature-worshipping, New Age rabble-babble. Wackiness ensues.

Or, rather, it’s supposed to. What we actually get is an hour and a half of “comedy” that is nowhere near as funny or raunchy as it wants you to think it is. “Predictable,” “annoying” and “generic” would all  make for more applicable adjectives.

Sure, the directing, editing and music here is competent and confident, even exceptional. But this is a comedy, and that means the weight of the film rests on the shoulders of the script and the actors. In examining these elements, one major flaw becomes unavoidably apparent.

Simply put, there’s not a single likeable character anywhere in the film. Our protagonists are irritating. The hippies are irritating. The villains are irritating. The ancillary characters are irritating. It almost seems like this was done purposefully, as if “Wanderlust” was trying to deliver some kind of misanthropic message: There are douchebags everywhere, in the city and in the country, in business suits and bellbottoms. In short, everyone sucks.

Granted there are a handful of effective jokes sprinkled throughout, such as George ineffectually trying to psych himself up to take part in some “free love” or Linda suggesting the inclusion of meth-smoking vampire-penguin prostitutes to make a wildlife documentary more palatable to  HBO audiences. Most of the time the humor falls flat. Worse, it’s derivative. There’s nothing here we haven’t seen before, and we’ve definitely seen it all done much, much better.

Speaking frankly, “Wanderlust” is an apt title, as that’s exactly what you’ll be struck with while watching it. Personally, for  much of its 98-minute runtime, I couldn’t help but wish I was somewhere else. Anywhere else.

1.5 stars out of 5