In 1998 Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston and Alan Alda appeared in the funny series of vignettes tied together as The Object of My Affection, the film version of Massachusetts author Stephen McCauley’s novel. The screenwriter, Wendy Wasserstein, took liberties adding a new character – film critic Rodney Fraser (played brilliantly by the late Nigel Hawthorne) – but also took out much of the heart of the original story. The film still stands as a fun, same-sex version of the TV show “Friends,” but could have been so much more.
Fast forward to 2012 and Rudd is no longer player kindergarten teacher George Hanson, he is now businessman George Gergenblatt and, instead of breaking Jennifer Aniston’s heart as the man she can’t have, she’s married to him as Linda Gergenblatt. Nina Borowski from Object all grown up as a free-spirited woman ready to stop the evil Casino builders by taking off her shirt and exposing her breasts to the TV cameras (something the city of Medford, Massachusetts might need if the Everett Casino gets the green light.)
Wanderlust, the bizarre alternative universe reunion of three of the Object of My Affection cast, is good for one spin, but it is so far off the beaten path with so many lost moments that it won’t hold up for repeated viewings… unless potheads and peyote freaks think it’s a new vehicle to put Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to after they’ve tired of playing that soundtrack alongside the Judy Garland Wizard of Oz.
Here’s where a sequel to Object of My Affection would have worked better than this outtake from a Marvel Comics Group’s “What If” series (where Marvel took its heroes Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and put them into an alternate universe of what could have been.) Aniston, Rudd and Alan Alda all give better performances in 2012’s Wadnerlust than they did in 1998’s Object of My Affection. Alda, a veteran actor, just mailed it in back in ’98 and should have known better. Aniston and Rudd gave performances that were at times forced and at other times naive. With years of silver screen experience they all give this their best shot but the Wanderlust script (from Director David Wain and Ken Marino) relies on so much artistic license that film goers may want it revoked.
Alda is great as the grandpa hippie in the wheelchair while the other cast of characters are so “oh wow man” that they feel like they were taken from the reject pile after auditions for Broadway’s Hair. The energies offered by the three vets from the 1998 film are dissipated in a morass of cumbersome cliche and overacting by the supporting cast.
Object of My Affection had some great supporting actors to hold up Alda, Rudd and Aniston’s missteps – Allison Jenney as Alda’s character’s wife – Constance Miller (and Aniston’s character’s half-sister) with her winning line “A gay school teacher is a one way ticket to nowhere” (for a woman to fall in love with); John Pankow (A.D.A. Josh Lethem from Law & Order SVU) as the father of Nina’s child; Tim Daly (of TV’s Wings) is excellent as the narcissistic Dr. Robert Joley who cheats on Paul Rudd (what a fool!) and the aforementioned brilliant delivery from the late Nigel Hawthorne, who passed on 4 years after Object was released. His line to Nina Borowski (Aniston) after Thanksgiving dinner is classic, and sums up the love quadrangle succinctly.
So, alas, Wanderlust could have reunited the cast from the 1998 film in a terrific new perspective on George Hanson and Nina Borowski. Alan Alda would have been able to redeem his lackluster performance in Object with his smart 1960’s throwback humor in Wanderlust. It was a no brainer and, you know what? It can still be filmed.