Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review: The Five Year Engagement

There’s got to be more than just one of Jason Segel. There’s no way one dude can juggle a starring role in a sitcom along with writing, producing and acting in multiple movies a year.

If there is a Segel cloning machine out there, that’s a good thing for the movie industry. Maybe they should make three or four more of him in order to crowd out the awful romantic comedies. Segel’s vision (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, The Muppets) may be often hit-and-miss, but they’re rarely predictable and never boring. As an actor, he nails the sympathetic beta male motif. Even when he doesn’t make you laugh, he manages to get you to feel bad for not doing so.

Only smoldering, take-charge actresses work well with Segel, which is why Emily Blunt is an inspired choice. She can devour the likes of Matt Damon with a “you’re lucky to be seen with me” aura, so Segel  can easily pass off his just-lucky-to-be-there shtick. They play the self-torturing couple at the core of The Five Year Engagement, ever the wedding cake samplers but never the cutters.

Segel’s character is a chef who is aching for a shot at the big time in San Francisco, while Blunt is a psychology grad student who must either follow her career track to Michigan or waste all her education.
If this were a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, they would break up, write letters to each other and fend off attacks from abusive exes. If this were a Katherine Heigl romcom, they would meet cute, plan out the wedding, break up due to a misunderstanding at the hour mark and elope at the end.

But this is a Segel comedy, meaning things will unfold at their own weird pace and logic. There will be much penis humor, idle chatter and a meandering plot that repeats itself a bunch of times. Sometimes you’ll fight the urge to pull out your phone to check the time, and others you’ll laugh so hard you’ll embarrass yourself.  
The movie isn’t always funny, but even when it struggles to keep its tone it’s got soul. The characters feel more like real people with real stuff to deal with than fake constructs with cookie-cutter solutions to their issues. But of their 99 problems, a penis joke ain’t one. My favorite involved a clever use of carrot and some ranch dip, and there was also a poignant observation about Disney princesses.

The Five Year Engagement isn’t always cohesive and could have used a shave and a haircut from a ruthless editor, but it does more good than bad, leaving you tired but content. Not bad for whichever Segel clone was assigned to handle this movie.

Starring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Alison Brie and Chris Pratt. Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. Directed by Stoller. 124 minutes. Rated R.

My novel, Stormin' Mormon, is available as a Kindle book for $1.

No comments: