Failure to engage
THAT’S not just a title we have here. It’s a direct challenge to the viewer. Are you in for the long haul?
If not, The Five- Year Engagement will lag like 10 years of drawn- out divorce proceedings.
Urgency, energy and snappy pacing, all traits a full- strength romantic comedy requires to land on the top shelf, go missing for long periods in this restless, yet curiously listless affair.
While firing semi- affectionate hometruth zingers at each other from close range, stars Jason Segel ( How I Met Your Mother) and Emily Blunt ( The Devil Wears
Prada) are about as appealing as any romcom pairing seems to get in 2012. But should the nudge ’ n’ niggle cease, The Five- Year Engagement soon becomes a drag for the ages.
The first act sets up everything just nicely. Slobbish sous chef Tom ( Segel) and sensible psych student Violet ( Blunt) meet at a fancy dress party.
They are soon making plans for a cool life together in swingin’ San Francisco.
Their respective families just love the idea, to the point of getting pushy about it.
Some older folk ( though thankfully not Australia’s own Jacki Weaver, who plays Violet’s mum) warn they do not wish to die waiting for the big day.
In a chain of gags linked throughout the picture, that wish will, indeed, be granted to selected codgers of the clans.
We also meet Tom and Violet’s collection of wacky acquaintances, most of whom bring the funny when called upon.
About 30 minutes in, you could not possibly suspect an initial steady flow of laughs would soon slow to a trickle.
But that is exactly what happens once the script ( co- penned by Segel and director Nicholas Stoller) starts conspiring to delay the wedding day.
Violet lands a prestige study gig in the drab, cold state of Michigan. Tom sacrifices a promising career to follow her there.
What follows is a slogging mid- section of the picture devoted to Tom suppressing and then releasing all pent- up resentment of his fiance.
Try as the writers might, at one point, Tom grows a frightening beard, there’s only intermittent amusement in the offing.
The levity improves noticeably when it finally dawns on the filmmakers that their 125- minute project ( at least 30 minutes too long for the material) had better wrap things up. By then, it’s a case of too little, too late. This production as a whole is by no means a bust but it should have been a whole lot better, especially given the quality of personnel involved, including omnipresent comedy guru Judd ‘‘ Knocked Up’’ Apatow as producer.
LONG HAUL: Emily Blunt and Jason Segel in a scene from the rom- com The Five- Year Engagement.