Trailer Tracking: ‘Wanderlust,’ ‘Safe House,’ ‘This Means War,’ More

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CHICAGO – Now that we’re so close to the holiday season, it means that the whole movie trailer landscape has changed yet again. We’ve spent the last three months watching the previews for the Christmas season blockbusters and the end-of-the-year Oscar hopefuls nonstop.

Now that their pre-release marketing window is shrinking to a close, we’re getting hit with all of the “fun” trailers from the first two months of 2012, the trailers that are supposed to inspire us to shake ourselves out of our post-New Year’s doldrums and get our asses to the multiplex.

So far, from what we’ve seen, it’s a mixed bag. There’s a lot of potential for greatness, for sure, but each of this week’s four new trailers have an equal potential to be epic train wrecks. As always, we hope for the best (yay, a new comedy from the creators of “Role Models”!) and plan for the worst (hey, it’s a new McG film… great…) But, regardless of the uncertainty, as trailer devotees, HollywoodChicago has poured over these trailers again and again until we were ready, willing, and able to let you know what we’re excited about, what underwhelmed us, and what we’re planning to avoid.

Movie: “Wanderlust”

Best Part of the Trailer: Paul Rudd being Paul Rudd.

Worst Part of the Trailer: You want me to say Jennifer Aniston, don’t you? Well, she’s not. Not at all. It’s Malin Akerman.

Our Take: If this movie was just being advertised as “Paul Rudd reunites with the team behind ‘Role Models’”, I’d already be sold. “Role Models” was a well-executed, underrated, raunchy gem of a comedy, and Paul Rudd’s performance in it stands as the closest any comedian has come recently to evoking the gleeful bastard spirit of early ‘80s Bill Murray leading roles. And, in theory, the idea of a “Role Models”-ish Rudd retreating to a hippie commune, with Jennifer Aniston in tow, sounds like high-concept comedy gold.

However, there’s a lot going on in the first trailer for “Wanderlust” that makes me doubt that the movie has the same sense of anarchic fun as “Role Models”. First, there’s the music. Yes, this is nitpicking in the extreme, but I can’t decide if it’s awesome or horrible that the trailer ends with Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” On one hand, the name of the song could very well be the title of the movie. On the other hand, talk about on the nose. “Wanderlust” seems to be saying both “look at these crazy hippies!” and “what’s so wrong, in our age of fiscal collapse, with some harmless folks believin’ in Peace, Love and Understanding?” The trailer doesn’t really make up its mind on that issue, and I’m worried that the movie will be just as indecisive. A comedy like “Wanderlust” is a balancing act. To work, it’s got to be like Bill Forsyth’s “Local Hero”, where we learn to love the eccentricities of the locals while gently laughing at their inherent craziness. I will say, to director David Wain’s credit, there are moments like that in the trailer - I love Joe Lo Truglio’s “Touche!” – but other characters (looking at you, Justin Theroux) just come off like douchey hippie archetypes.

This gets into my other concern about “Wanderlust”. I will bet good money that the film’s marketing team embraces the whole Occupy Wall Street “this film is for the 99%” thing that failed so miserably for “Tower Heist” this weekend. Expect lots of ads and cast interviews where they stress how, with the housing collapse and plummeting economy, wouldn’t it be nice to just go off and live in a commune of like-minded, non-materialistic friends? They’ll consider that “tapping into the zeitgeist.” The problem is – at the moment, it would be way, way too easy to use the trailer for “Wanderlust” as an indictment of that very sentiment or of the Occupy Wall Street movement as a whole. The characters in “Wanderlust“‘s commune are EXACTLY what Fox News viewers believe what the Occupy Wall Street participants look like. They’re crazy, they have no jobs, they do drugs, they’re promiscuous - even if the movie ends up as pro-commune, the commune imagery they’re providing to the public makes it way, way too easy to dismiss their way of life at a passing glance. You can get a lot of jokes out of the concept of “dirty hippies” (just as Cartman), but then you can’t ask us to suddenly love and respect the hippies in the final reel. THIS, I think, is the main challenge surrounding “Wanderlust.” And the fact that ANY of this occurred to me while watching its trailer, when I just should’ve just been thinking “Hee, hee, Rudd am funny,” is a problem. (Granted, that could just be my problem.)

And you do want me to get even more nitpicky? The FONT (yes, the font) and backgrounds that they use for the interstitial text, when the trailer tells us to “find our way”, looks exactly like the ad text from “Couples Retreat” (also starring Malin Akerman), which is EXACTLY the kind of B.S., piss-poor self-help comedy that I hope “Wanderlust” isn’t.

TRAILER OUTLOOK: Mixed bag. Rudd is a 10th-level comedy mage right now, but there were too few killer jokes and too much conceptual weirdness in the trailer to completely sell me.

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