The Five-Year Enagement

© 2012 Ray Wong

Jason Segel is like the male version of Kristen Wiig: he can write, act, and produce. Solid comedies, too. After the success of The Muppets, Segel follows with a romantic comedy starring himself (of course) opposite effervescent Emily Blunt.

Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily) practically fall in love with each other the moment they meet at a New Year's Eve party in San Francisco. One year later, Tom proposes and Violet accepts, despite their family's objection that they haven't known each other long enough. Then Violet gets a faculty position in Michigan. Driven by love, Tom agrees to quit his job as head chef and moves with Violet.

Violet's ambition and academic schedule make it necessary for them to postpone their nuptial for two years. During that time, Violet's career advances nicely, while Tom stumbles and ends up working at a local deli. Tom begins to brew resentment but he refuses to talk about it with Violet, who is too self-absorbed and focused on her career that she hardly notices Tom is depressed.

The two-year wait turns into five when Violet's job gets extended. Tom's depression begins to get out of control, and Violet begins to doubt their compatibility. Their rocky relationship gives both of them reasons to wander, and before long they realize their engagement is nothing more an excuse so they can avoid the inevitable.

Jason Segel (The Muppets) has proven himself to the Average-Joe comedic leading man. Handsome and charming, Segel is also approachable and relatable. Segel handles the complicated character, Tom, very well, going from totally lovestruck to messed up, while holding onto our sympathy. His character's passive-aggressive nature could be grating at times -- get some balls already. But in the name of love, we forgive him. Emily Blunt (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) is lovely and radiant and wonderful as Violet, the love of Tom's life. Violet is a bit more straightforward than Tom -- she is a bit more self-centered and ambitious and she has her reservation about Tom all along. Thus her character is less evolved until the end when she realizes what love really means.

The supporting cast does their job rather nicely as well. Chris Pratt (Moneyball) plays Tom's bratty best friend with enough charisma that we can't help but love the jerk. As his wife (and Violet's sister), Alison Brie (Scream 4) is hilarious. Her "Elmo" scene with Emily Blunt is one of the highlights of the movie. Rhys Ifans (Anonymous) is dashing and smart, with a dash of slime, as Violet's boss.

Written by Segel and writer-director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek), the screenplay can be funny at times and a drab at others. I like the fact that they stay true to the characters and make them very human and likable, albeit rather screwed up. It's just that as their engagement gets longer and longer, our patience grows shorter and shorter, and there are not enough jokes (some of them nicely gross and raunchy, just not enough) to fill in the gaps. We know where their relationship is heading, right off the bat, so the journey can seem excruciatingly slow (at 124 minutes, the movie can be trimmed substantially).

The best part of the story is the characters. We come to care about them as they struggle through their lives and relationships. However, there are some outrageous moments and plot elements that are clearly for comedy, and for me, they cheapens the movie. Yes, I understand this is a comedy, but at the core, it's a romance, and we need to believe in these character to truly feel for them.

Stoller's direction also needs more finesse. Parts of the movie feel clunky, both in production and editing. The pacing is off at places, and the middle drags. I think half an hour could have been trimmed without losing anything significant. The tone is also uneven: at times somber and serious, and at times outrageous and raunchy. Don't get me wrong, I did laugh. I just think as a movie, it lacks cohesion.

I think Segel has great ideas and in time he can make something seriously entertaining and insightful, but he is still missing the mark somehow. Give him some time, though, and he can mature as a formidable force of comedy (like what Wiig has achieved with Bridesmaids or Tina Fey with Mean Girls). Just don't make us wait five years.

Stars: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Mindy Kaling, Randall Park, Kevin Hart, Lauren Weedman, Mimi Kennedy, David Paymer
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Writers: Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller
Distributor: Universal
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity
Running Time: 124 minutes 

Script - 7
Performance - 7
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 7
Music/Sound - 6
Editing - 6
Production - 7
Total - 6.7 out of 10.0 

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