The latest from “The House of Apatow” sees Jason Segel and Emily Blunt teaming up to play a couple who can never quite tie the knot. The delay is all down to geography, logistics and that old cinematic rom-com favourite… “fear of commitment”.
We first meet the happy couple in as Segel’s Tom proposes to Blunt’s Violet on the rooftop of the San Franciso restaurant where he is a chef. She accepts. Excellent, we have a wedding to plan! Right? Oh wait. Everything gets puts on hold when Violet gets offered a psychology post-doc in the University of Michigan. It’s not Berkeley but it’s the best option on the table so they up sticks and head east across the country to the snowy environs of Ann Arbor, Michigan under the tutelage of Rhys Ifans’ acclaimed professor “Winton Childs”.
And alas it’s here where the wheels start to come off. The opening act of the film introduced us to two people – Tom’s friend and co-worker Alex, played by Chris Pratt with his typical brand of clueless abandon, and Violet’s sister Suzie played by Alison Brie who once again proves she is so much more than Pete Campbell’s forgotten wife in Mad Men. The two of them hook up, have a baby and get married. They both excel in these supporting roles, but taking the central couple out of San Francisco and sending them off to Michigan deprives of spending more time with the Alex and Suzie.
I’m not spoiling anything (you’ve seen the film’s title, right?) by saying that we don’t get to hear wedding bells in Michigan. Instead the middle act of the film gets bogged down with some quite weird scenes. Segel as the crazy, bearded “faculty husband” is bordering on unsettling and it’s hard to really believe that Violet is so engrossed in her studies to not see their relationship collapsing. On occasion we traipse back to check in on the sunny San Francisco couple who seem to share the viewer’s disillusionment at just how strange things have gotten in Michigan. That 124 minute running time doesn’t help to resolve matters either.
You have to feel a bit for Segel. The Five-Year Engagement is his third script-writing gig after Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Muppets, and while I took a lot of enjoyment from his three films, their flaws were as apparent as their good points. He is teaming up with Sarah Marshall director and Muppets co-writer Nicholas Stoller again here and he seems more than competent at writing touching scenes and creating likeable characters but when sewn together it makes for a bit of an mishmash of a romantic comedy.
Kudos to the cast with strong performances by the main players mentioned so far and fun bit parts for Animal Kingdom’s oscar-nominated Jacki Weaver and SNL alumnus Chris Parnell. I will add that I would happily pay to see another six sequels with Emily Blunt and Alison Brie as sisters reprising the Sesame Street characters that they briefly treat us to here.
Despite the disjointed and drawn out nature of things, it’s still incredibly watchable light entertainment, with ample laughs and a few touching moments. The opening and closing acts (no-brainer spoiler alert – they leave Michigan) provide a nice stable base to build around but you can’t escape the sense that there was a lot of hacking around with the middle act to end up with the passable picture we now have.
USA / Directed By: Nicholas Stoller / Written By: Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller / Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver / 124min / Romance, Comedy / Release: 27 April 2012 (US/Canada), 22 June 2012 (Irl/UK)