Movies made by Judd Apatow and his acolytes (in this case director Nicholas Stoller of “Get Him to the Greek” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” fame and his co-writer/star, Jason Segel) are guaranteed to deliver some hearty laughs.
You can also be sure that they will be afflicted with comedic elephantitis. They will go on. And on. And on.
The latest example of this wearisome trend is “The Five-Year Engagement.”
Funny, it felt longer.
Tom (Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) have been dating for forever. He’s a chef in a trendy San Francisco restaurant. She’s … well, I’m not sure what she does.
But after years of happy cohabitation, Tom finally proposes. All is blissful. They tell their families, they dive into wedding planning. It’s just cute as hell.
And then Violet gets a teaching and research gig at the University of Michigan. They agree to put off the wedding. Tom selflessly gives up his beloved job to allow Violet to follow her bliss.
And for most of this two-hour movie we watch Tom slowly sink into a morass of anger and self pity. He hates the cold. He hates the lowbrow cuisine. He takes a job in a deli slapping together sandwiches. In his spare time, he is sucked into deer hunting with a couple of locals (Brian Posehn, Chris Parnell).
Meanwhile, Violet is starting to get cozy with her psychology mentor (Rhys Ifans). Tom almost has a thing with a co-worker who uses potato salad as a lubricant. There are numerous dead-end subplots involving Violet and the other psychology grad students in her group.
One subplot that does work involves the marriage of Violet’s sister (Alison Brie) and one of Tom’s fellow chefs, a grinning doofus (Christ Pratt) who seems to have studied at the feet of “American Pie’s” Stiffler. There’s a kernel of something smart at the center of this movie. Namely, the idea that doing the selfless thing may not necessarily be the right thing.
But Stoller, who showed considerable control of his material with “Get Him to the Greek,” seems at a loss to give “The Five-Year Engagement” any sort of shape or forward momentum. The film is filled with flat passages, entire minutes when nothing particularly interesting or funny is happening. Segel and Blunt are hugely likable screen presences, but they spend way too much time here treading water, floundering in the same angsty issues over and over and over.
This movie is more than two hours long. Take a lesson from Woody Allen, guys. His greatest comedies clocked in at a happy 90 minutes.