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‘The Five Year Engagement' goes on and on
"The Five-Year Engagement" plays like a five-episode, R-rated story arc from "How I Met Your Mother." With more profanity and more explicit sex. And considerably less drinking. And no Neil Patrick Harris.
Jason Segel, co-star of both the TV show and the movie, and his "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" team, feed us two hours-plus of recycled gags from the show (e.g. Segel's "Big Foot" impersonation) and bits that might have been in the sitcom, but were too expensive for it. They layer the soundtrack with music by Van Morrison, whose love songs are used so often in the movies that they're collected on a CD, "Van Morrison Goes to the Movies" (which apparently Segel, co-writer and director Nicholas Stoller and I all own).
And all that adds up to is an occasionally engaging romantic dramedy that never blows away that "Where have I seen this before?" feeling.
Emily Blunt and Segel are Violet and Tom, young lovers in San Francisco planning a wedding. Until she gets a fellowship to study and work at that the University of Michigan, in that "Water Winter Wonderland" that's better suited for wolverines than big-city folk.
He gives up his job as sous chef at a trendy restaurant and the wedding, a big wedding, is postponed. He's resigned to it, and supportive. She's distracted, even after the pep talk with her ditzy sister (Alison Brie, a stitch).
Much of the comedy here is built around the funk that Tom goes through far away from his dream life in his dream city and his dream job. He gets a little too into hunting, becomes a little too fond of dining on deer and dons Ted Nugent facial hair.
His first faculty cocktail party in Ann Arbor tells him all he needs to know. He mentions he's a chef, and all anybody can think of to ask is if he saw the Pixar cartoon "Ratatouille."
Violet is spending too much time at the office, running psychological experiments with her "bad decisions" specialist mentor (Rhys Ifans, funny enough) and judging Tom by what she's learning.
And the wedding plans keep tumbling backwards.
Segel, so wonderfully lost in "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," suffers a serious case of Zach Braff-itis here. He's content to warm over what he does on TV, spend more money on the soundtrack and hire HRHotness, Ms. Blunt, to compensate.
As with every Judd Apatow production, there's nothing here that wouldn't have been better at a shorter length and quicker pace. At two hours, the drawn-out gags, scenes that leisurely run far past their punch line or payoff, and the overdose of supporting players burden the film.
Chris Pratt is Tom's chef pal, straining for laughs. "Animal Kingdom" Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver is a hoot as the bride-to-be's mom, but fellow psychology department researcher Kevin Hart is MUCH funnier in "Think Like a Man." Mindy Kaling lands a few laughs; Chris Parnell, fewer than her.
But any chef knows that the more you add to the soup, the more watered down you make it. Whatever spicy moments it manages, "The Five-Year Engagement" is still just broth – weak broth – in the end.