“Bridesmaids” Shmidesmaids (the ad says ‘From the Producer of “Bridesmaids”‘), this came from the “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” guys, which is why there’s no good excuse for what an uneven pile of shit it is.
Jason Segel (a great comedic actor) and Emily Blunt (a great comedic actress) are Tom and Violet, a couple on their way to a party one night when Tom pulls over and folds under Violet’s pressure to blurt out his marriage proposal. Having seen that she’s screwed up what was to be an elaborate set-up, Violet has Tom go through the motions of his surprise proposal. For this sequence, “The Five-Year Engagement” is genuine and even funny. Bunny costumes, Van Morrison, New Year’s fireworks, the Bay Bridge, and a “Blood Diamond” reference all solidify a proper intro to what seems to be the next memorable romantic comedy. From there, it’s not just downhill, it’s like being lowered into a dark pit a few feet at a time. As the title lets on, this movie is about Tom and Violet’s engagement that lasts five years.
Meanwhile, the 2hr 4min running time does enough to make it feel more like nine or ten. Someone must please explain to Judd Apatow (the producer of “Bridesmaids,” “Knocked Up,” “Funny People,” and surely more movies to come that will be far more enjoyable if only they’ll quit jacking themselves off on the audience for an unneeded half hour of collective fat comprised of overplayed monologues that take multiple breaks from the plot to prove that every single actor in the cast was once part of an improv troop) that it’s okay to make a point and move the hell on. All these comedies begging to be taken seriously because they run longer than “Lawrence of Arabia” are getting tired as hell, and this flick is the ultimate proof. There’s some shit in the theme about how one needs to accept happiness when it’s here and not wait for things to get better, but then there are other points made to help everybody sound deep with lines like “There is no perfect cookie, you just pick one and take a bite.” I don’t know, I lost track of how much this sad update of “The English Patient” could teach me in my efforts to stay awake.
The real crime is how much talent was stuffed up this turkey’s ass. Aside from Segel and Blunt’s perfect chemistry, the likes of Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill), David Paymer (Payback), Kevin Hart (one of the best comics alive), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom), Mindy Kaling (The Office), Brian Posehn (Sarah Silverman Program), and Lauren Weedman (Hung) are peppered throughout in roles that would’ve demanded laughs if the actors were at least given premises to work with if not good dialogue. As is, they were left groveling for giggles. Then, there are the characters doomed from the get-go, like Suzie (“Mad Men”‘s Alison Brie, playing the role of Violet’s sister with the same uncertainty that went into a role that should’ve simply been called “Violet’s Sister”), Alex (Chris Pratt, who seems to be struggling with if it’s those ten pounds that kept him from the lead while overplaying the role of “the wacky friend”), and Ming (Randall Park, a Korean-American who got the high honor of playing the silly Chuy-neez guy with the silly accent because it worked for that guy in “Sixteen Candles”).
It’s a shame that Jason Segel, who wrote the best romantic comedy of the past few years (if you can’t relate to his character in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” heartbreak’s gonna suck when you go through it one day), shared a writing credit with director Nicholas Stoller on this. Stoller directed “Marshall” with a grace rarely found in any kind of comedy, as he was able to masterfully balance laughs with emotion in every scene and every one of his actors.
Sadly, this ability went to his head to the point that he convinced himself he’s a writer too, hence the bucket of day-old diarrhea known as “Get Him to the Greek.” It takes a gluttonous serving of anti-talent to screw up a script based on one of the funniest damn characters ever to hit the screen (Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow) and make him bland, but Stoller pulled it off.
The sin could be forgivable if he’d only learned his lesson and handed the writing reins back to pal Segel for their next team effort, but nah. Maybe Segel’s just as nice a guy as the characters he portrays, because it’s only that (or laziness) that could possibly have led to letting his buddy Nick take one more crack at screenwriting alongside him. The problem with being that nice is that audience gets to pay for the backlash. The only plot in “The Five-Year Engagement” is Violet getting a job abroad and Tom going with her to find out that he hates it there. Everything else is a string of events that often make no sense in the given reality, tugged along by a slew of random “jokes” that ask for laughs like a beggar with a jangling tin cup (wait for Tom’s mom to mention her vaginal reconstruction surgery out of nowhere, it’s a doozy, okay, it’s not, it’s just a woman over fifty saying the word “vagina,” that’s it, yes, really, that’s pretty much the joke).
The only device used to remind us that the flick’s not over is grandparents dying, a device that’s funny the first time and pretty tired by the fourth. In the end, it’s as if the movie itself sees just how bad it was, as the big closer is just a revisited joke that wasn’t a big laugh when we saw it the first time. There’s so much unexplained lameness in this thing, it’s as if some martian watched some comedies and then learned to speak English and wrote its first screenplay. While one of the best comedic writers in Hollywood (Segel, NOT STOLLER) shared the credit on it, it wasn’t enough. Sometimes, friends need to be told the project comes first. See it if you need a nap that bad.