Fresh from their success with ‘The Muppets’, star Jason Segel and his longtime co-writer (and occasional director) Nicholas Stoller have gone back to the source: crafting high-concept, low-maintenance romantic comedies for producer Judd Apatow. But ‘The Five-Year Engagement’ lacks the freshness and spontaneity of both its puppetry predecessor and Segel and Stoller’s debut ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’: this is a watchable but rather drab romcom which relies too often on Apatow-school cliché.
Segel is Tom, a hardworking San Francisco chef whose romance with Violet (Emily Blunt) is hitting its peak: they’re ready to tie the knot. But when Violet lands a research position at a university in frozen Michigan, the pair decide to delay. And delay…
As this is an Apatow production, we expect ‘The Five-Year Engagement’ to be overlong, overcrowded (there are endless supporting characters) and a little self-satisfied. But we also expect it to be funny, smart and insightful. The jokes – most of them delivered by Tom’s tiresomely inappropriate best buddy, Alex (Chris Pratt) – simply aren’t very good; while the comic set pieces – such as a scene where Violet and her sister (Alison Brie) speak entirely in ‘Sesame Street’ voices – feel contrived. A soundtrack consisting entirely of Van Morrison songs is welcome when it’s The Man himself singing them, but a reliance on twee cover versions saps the spirit.
Most disappointingly, the script is heavily weighted in favour of its male characters – we’re expected to sympathise with Tom even though he behaves despicably, while Violet is depicted as the one in need of forgiveness, a tendency that reaches its peak in the frustratingly overextended finale.