Two self absorbed yuppies drift through a sea of grotesquerie in this mess of a rom com from director David Wain. Arguments abound, life lessons are learned, and dicks flap freely in the wind in a hippie commune. Humor never makes an appearance. Complete fucking bullshit.
Where to start? Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play a stock Hollywood couple who lose their jobs and their cramped Manhattan apartment before heading to Atlanta to stay with Rudd’s irredeemably obnoxious brother. Along the way, they stop at a loopy hippie commune headed by Justin Theroux and Alan Alda and decide what the hell? They might as well give up what little they have left and begin anew.
Comedy can certainly be mined from watching two hapless yuppies adapt to the surreal atmosphere of a hippie commune. But nothing particularly funny happens in this movie. In the theater where I viewed the movie, the biggest laugh came from two minutes of Paul Rudd talking into a mirror. Each of the hippies is defined by one or two characteristics and is never developed beyond that; there’s the nudist hippie, the pregnant hippie, the black guy, the burned out old guy, and the self righteous asshole hippie. Rudd’s and Aniston’s characters remain even more formless. We gather nothing from them other than they’re relatively young, attractive, professional, and completely uptight. In other words, they share the same damn DNA as every other Hollywood rom com couple ever.
The movie sputters along with dick jokes and gags involving hallucinogenic drugs, but it’s all been done before. Many of the gags go on for way too long, falling immediately flat but persisting for several seconds or minutes, as if rubbing in an unfunny joke will magically make it hilarious. Nearly everyone mugs for the camera.
Through careful application of the scientific method and years of watching Hollywood comedies, I have generated two laws: The Rule of Rudd and the Rule of Aniston. The Rule of Rudd states that any movie starring Paul Rudd, no matter how terrible every other aspect of the production is, will at least be worth watching for any scene Rudd is in. The Rule of Aniston states that any movie starring Jennifer Aniston is absolutely not worth seeing, regardless of who else is in it. (Office Space is the exception to the rule). Clearly, this movie was an experiment on the part of director David Wain to see if Rudd’s effortless charm could counteract Aniston’s innate blandness. It can’t. This movie sucks.
Jennifer Aniston is a pitch black void of humorlessness, and nothing can escape her maw. She invests her character with few human qualities and attempts to convey humor through the same stock facial expressions she’s used since Friends. Rudd can’t charm his way out of this quagmire of a movie partially because of his co-star and partially because of what the script demands of him. Rudd really works best when playing to one of two extremes: the childlike simpleton (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) or the sardonic, misanthropic asshole (Role Models). In this movie, he plays neither a man-child nor a complete sarcastic ass. As a result, he kind of just sits there and flails away, desperately trying to make funny happen.
Theroux’s hippie villain divides the stock couple, Rudd walks away in the rain, and the two reunite in the third act with some insights gleaned from their adventure, because the Hollywood manual on manufacturing romantic comedies requires these beats. I’m not entirely sure why the audience should care whether Rudd and Aniston get back together, though. From the first scene of the movie the two are arguing. They persist in arguing for the entire movie. It also doesn’t help that Rudd and Aniston share the same chemistry as oil and water. Like everything else in this movie, the ending is purely perfunctory.
I did arrive at one positive observation during this movie. I’ve been a resident of the state of Georgia for practically my entire life, and as a result, I’m acutely aware of how offensively the South is typically portrayed in Hollywood fare. If a movie about two yuppies traveling to the Deep South on a quest for personal discovery had been made in the ‘70s or the ‘80s, the story would have resulted in the couple being raped and murdered by a pack of inbred, psychotic hillbillies or harassed by a fat, racist sheriff with a wad of tobacco stuffed into his cheek. Hell, just look at Rod Lurie’s abysmal adaptation of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. That turd dropped just last year.
But in 2012, a movie about a couple of yuppies traveling to Georgia ends in them partying it up for a few weeks with a bunch of peace loving hippies. That’s some progress, I suppose.