Directed by: Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek)
Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Lauren Weedman, Mimi Kennedy, David Paymer
Buried somewhere beneath more padding than Eddie Murphy’s Norbit fat suit may lie an OK romantic comedy in The Five-Year Engagement, but in its present 124-minute incarnation we’ll never know. Has everyone in Hollywood forgotten how to edit? I mean that in both terms of film and the story. It appears that no idea broached was ever rejected, and no scene that was shot was ever deemed to interrupt the flow of what passes for the story. The film moves along about as well as a manual transmission car being driven by someone who doesn’t know what a clutch is. This inability to say, “Cut,” and the bloated running time is also made worse by yet another hallmark of the Judd Apatow movie machine: the man-boy romantic lead. Even though the film is less obnoxious than most of the things that have come out under the Apatow imprint, that doesn’t make it especially better.
The movie at least presents the novel idea of following a seemingly happily-ever-after couple—Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt)—deciding to get married, which is generally where rom-coms end rather than start. OK, I’ll concede that that at least sounds moderately different, but what follows—explained by the title—is nothing but the same old rom-com rubbish we’ve seen for years. Instead of the classic formula “Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again,” we instead have “Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again.” All that’s happened is we’ve lost the preliminaries. Considering the film’s running time, I suppose we should be grateful for that merciful deletion.
Here’s the pitch: Tom is a rising chef, Violet is some sort of burgeoning post-doctoral psychology student. When she gets the offer to relocate for some career-making position at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Tom puts his plans and their wedding on hold for the two years she’s signed up for. Resentment—and the fact that Ann Arbor isn’t San Francisco (insert condescending yokel humor here)—follows. And that’s not even figuring in the ultimately lecherous head of the department (a thoroughly wasted Rhys Ifans). The whole thing is heading toward the standard break-up, penultimate gloomy reel (only here it seems more like reels and reels), and the make-up finale. Oh-ho and oh-hum.
What sets this apart—though not in a good way—is the series of meandering digressions along the way that mostly just serve to make the movie that much longer. There’s a good laugh when Tom gets talked into going hunting, but the film beats this gag into the ground. There’s a singularly pointless drunken dalliance involving Tom and a co-worker at the deli where he’s gotten a low-rent job. There’s a plethora of movie-style quirky characters who could exist nowhere else. And there’s precious little wit to any of it.
What’s really being tested here is the old chestnut of movie wisdom that states undeniably likable leads and their equally pleasant onscreen chemistry will carry the day, even if the script and direction doesn’t. Fine in theory. Not so hot in practice—at least for me. By the one-hour mark—when I first checked the time—I was wishing both lead characters had been drowned at birth, thereby saving them—and us—from all this moronic shilly-shallying.
The oddest thing about the movie is that it’s the second bout of rom-commery in two weeks to arrive at the conclusion that opening a food truck is the sure road to happiness. Is this going to be a trend? Didn’t it already happen on some ABC sitcom that’s on the path to cancellation? Didn’t that clue anyone in? And does no one notice the fact that in the end these tales, it’s always the guy’s job that is more important than the woman’s? Or was most of the audience long past caring by that point? Rated R for sexual content and language througout.
Warning: Red-Band “Adult” Trailer