The Five Year Engagement

Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 01:00

Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Starring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Jacki Weaver 15A cert, general release, 124 min

THEY MEET at a New Year’s party themed around fake superheroes. She’s Lady Di; he’s a giant pink bunny. One year later he proposes. Awww. Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) are made for one another. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything really.

First up: Violet’s kooky sister (Community’s Alison Brie) gets pregnant by Tom’s potty-minded BF (Chris Pratt) and emergency nuptials are required: the star- crossed fiancees can’t very well upstage a shotgun wedding, now can they?

Bombshell No 2: Violet is offered a fellowship in the psychology department at the University of Michigan under a smooth-talking professor (Rhys Ifans). Cue multiple complications.

It’s bad enough that, try as he might, Tom can’t quite hide his disappointment at being hauled away from a promising career as a San Francisco chef. It’s worse that, in response to his perceived emasculation, he takes to deer hunting, foraging and growing lamp chop facial hair. Cue repugnant hygiene issues and Unabomber grooming.

As the months turn to years, Tom and Violet drift increasingly apart. Will they ever make it down the aisle? Or has the moment passed?

Blunt and Segel, two affable performers, brings bags of charm and an improvisational believability to a very Irish engagement. There are winning bit parts and cameos from established comic delights such as Kevin Hart and The Sarah Silverman Show’s Brian Posehn. Animal Kingdom’s Jacki Weaver pops up as a very different kind of interfering mummy.

Unhappily for the lively cast, The Five-Year Engagement is just as unhurried as the wedding invites. Director Nicholas Stoller’s insistence on naturalistic, post-mumblecore rhythms, coupled with Javier Aguirresarobe’s easy lensing, yields a lovely authentic gloss. But it does rather bring the film to a grinding halt in places. The extensive running time doesn’t help.

Somewhere, buried in The Five-Year Engagement, is a sparkling screwball comedy fighting against a turntable running on long play. The pace, the delivery and Van Morrison on the soundtrack demand “dramedy”; the underlying DNA screams “make like Grant and Russell”. The same film-maker stood over the rambunctious Get Him to the Greek and co-wrote The Muppets. We know he has a flair for zany. Why did it fail him here?