WANDERLUST (David Wain). 98 minutes. Opens Friday (February 24). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
In its first 10 minutes, David Wain's Wanderlust says more about being married, urban and confused than Sam Mendes's insufferable, precious Away We Go did in its entire running time - and it only gets better from there.
Starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as a Manhattan couple who lose their condo and head south in search of a fresh start, winding up at a commune outside Atlanta, Wanderlust succeeds on pretty much every level. It's hysterically funny, which would be enough to make it a must-see film right about now, but it's also a very smart film about insecurity, vanity and the appeal of simplicity in the technological age - even if that simplicity is coming from a sanctimonious vegan guru named Seth, who suggests that the best way to find inner peace is to let him bang your wife.
Fortunately, Wain and Rudd - who previously collaborated on Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten and Role Models - aren't out to make the next Martha Marcy May Marlene. Their interest in the hippie lifestyle is more as an incubator for nonstop verbal and visual gags, all delivered by a fantastic ensemble cast that includes Wain's State colleagues Ken Marino (who wrote the script with Wain), Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, Joe Lo Truglio and Kerry Kenny-Silver.
Also on board, and invaluable, are Justin Theroux, Michaela Watkins, Malin Akerman, Jordan Peele, Todd Barry, Alan Alda, Linda Lavin and Lauren Ambrose, who seems to be channeling her Six Feet Under mom Frances Conroy.
Rudd and Aniston are great together, his affable presence smoothing out her harder edges. They're entirely convincing as a longtime couple - far more so than they were in 1998's miscalculated The Object Of My Affection - and while this sort of thing is totally in Rudd's wheelhouse, it's nice to see Aniston venturing outside the plastic, predictable rom-com world she's been stuck in for the last few years.
Her character is just as nuts as everyone else in Wanderlust - she's introduced pitching a documentary about penguins with testicular cancer, which is just one tiny absurdist moment in a movie that's full of them. Wain orchestrates the mounting craziness like a master, building jokes on top of one another like he's out to set a record for callbacks in a feature film. And pretty much everything he sets up pays off; my face actually hurt from laughing afterward, and I cannot remember the last time that's happened.