This Week at the Movies

"Wanderlust" is a laid back and mostly funny commune comedy, while "Gone" is a flat teen thriller.

“Wanderlust” cracks jokes at the expense of characters that might have been riper for satire 30 years ago, but it’s still an amiable, often funny and - even more frequently - raunchy comedy.

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston play George and Linda, a Manhattan couple that is forced to explore new options after they find themselves unemployed and unable to afford their cramped apartment in the Village.

The first option is to crash with Rick (Ken Marino), George’s obnoxious brother who lives in an Atlanta McMansion with his depressive wife.

This plan quickly proves disastrous, so George and Linda move on, stumbling upon Elysian, a hippie commune filled with a smorgasbord of odd characters, including a charismatic, but opportunistic, leader (Justin Theroux), a burn-out (Alan Alda) who continuously recites the names of the commune’s founders, an angry young woman with “bad vibes” (Kathryn Hahn) and a nudist (Joe Lo Truglio).

Writer-Director David Wain throws in the obligatory plot device of an unscrupulous developer who wants to steal away the commune’s plot of land to turn it into condos.

As I mentioned before, the picture’s satirical elements are several decades late to the party.

But “Wanderlust” has its share of laughs – from an ongoing joke involving the lack of doors in the commune to Theroux’s game of one-upmanship with George, especially a sequence involving guitar playing.

It also helps that co-writers Wain and Marino obviously have some affection for their characters and while the jokes are made at their expense, they are never cruel.

 “Wanderlust” may be a minor addition to its genre, but teen thriller “Gone” barely even registers.

The picture stars Amanda Seyfried as Jill, a young woman who claims to have escaped the clutches of a madman a year ago and is now concerned that her sister, who has gone missing, has been similarly abducted.

The police, of course, are skeptical after having found no evidence to back up Jill’s tale of being snatched out of her bed and tossed down a hole filled with corpses in an abandoned forest.

The cops increasingly become concerned with her erratic behavior, so Jill takes it upon herself to track down her missing sister.

“Gone” makes decent use of its Portland, Oregon locales and features one particularly creepy late-night trek through the woods.

But the movie is mostly forgettable and often laughably preposterous, especially Jill’s attempts at sleuthing and her ability to continuously elude the police. One memorably absurd attempt at ducking the cops involves her convincing some teens that she will get them backstage passes to a Justin Bieber concert.

As far as teen thrillers go, “Gone” is not as catastrophic as the recent Taylor Lautner vehicle “Abduction,” but it’s still pretty weak.

"Wanderlust" is screening at Douglaston's Movie World, while "Gone" is playing at AMC Loews Fresh Meadows 7.


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