LITTLE ROCK — The Five-Year Engagement is not so much a movie as it is a collection of future YouTube clips. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt make an appealing screen couple (they were certainly more likable than the rest of Gulliver’s Travels), but it’s a shame that Segel and director Nicholas Stoller can write more skillfully for puppets than they do for people. It’s probably no wonder that one of the funnier scenes in the film involves Muppet voices.
Having successfully revived Jim Henson’s creations, Segel and Stoller meet their quota for giggle-inducing sequences. It’s too bad they don’t fit together neatly, and they lead to a sort of limbo like the one Tom (Segel) and Violet (Blunt) experience.
After a year with Violet, Tom decides that he must marry her and even picks out the perfect ring. As they quickly discover, just getting the jewelry is a starting point. She’s Christian and he’s Jewish, so finding clergy who’ll accommodate them is a challenge.
Violet gets an opening at the University of Michigan as a graduate student of psychology, which requires her to leave San Francisco. Tom, who works as a highly paid sous chef, thinks that he can cook pretty much anywhere, and joins her. The only job he can land in his miserably cold new home is making sandwiches at a deli.
Along the way, numerous obstacles get in the way of Violet and Tom tying the knot. Segel and Stoller have plenty of good ideas but develop them fitfully. Potentially strong material is stunted before it has a chance to properly develop, while other gags are allowed to rot on the vine.
The Five-Year Engagement sometimes drags between comic outbursts. At just over two hours, the film needs focus and pruning. In one sequence where a buffoonish American groom serenades his beloved in surprisingly fluent Spanish, there’s a lot to giggle over, but the sequence loses its impact because Stoller doesn’t know when to end it.
At the same time, the large supporting cast is a lot of fun when Stoller gives them a chance to work. Chris Pratt and Alison Brie have their moments as Tom’s cloddish best friend and Violet’s emotional sister.
As with most movies produced by Segel and Stoller’s mentor Judd Apatow (Bridesmaids, Knocked Up), profanity and gags involving carnality abound. In Apatow’s better movies, however, there’s plenty of heart and brain to go with the other body parts and functions.
Heart and brain do leave their mark on The Five-Year Engagement, but it would have been preferable if Segel and Stoller had consulted with them more frequently. That said, the clips that make it to YouTube will be highly amusing on their own.
The Five-Year Engagement 75
Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Rhys Ifans, Alison Brie, Kevin Hart, Lauren Weedman, Mimi Kennedy, David Paymer, Jacki Weaver
R, for sexual content, and language