Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Five-Year Engagement

Title: The Five-Year Engagement

Is That a Particularly Long Time to Be Engaged? It is if all your grandparents are barely clinging to life, I suppose.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three crossbows out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Newly enagaged couple are in a hurry to get married, for some reason.

Tagline: "A comedy about the journey between popping the question and tying the knot."

Better Tagline: "Judd Apatow also produced Drillbit Taylor and Year One, so don't get too aroused by that 'from the producer of Bridesmaids lead-in."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Tom (Jason Segel), an up-and-coming San Francisco chef, proposes to Violet (Emily Blunt), the world's oldest psychology student, on the one-year anniversary of their "meet cute" at a New Year's Eve party. When she gets a graduate position at the University of Michigan, Tom follows her and the two postpone the wedding...temporarily. A series of subsequent events see the couple growing further apart while friends get married and have kids and Violet's success threatens to drive them further apart. Also, dick jokes.

"Critical" Analysis: I think I'm experiencing Jason Segel fatigue. The guy may be one of those rarest of birds, the genuine Hollywood nice guy, but after Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Bad Teacher, the overrated The Muppets (keep your pants was good, not great) and the interminable How I Met Your Mother, I feel like I need to see other people.

What's Luke Wilson up to these days?

The Five-Year Engagement does toy with that idea of taking a breather from one another, though that's hardly the central premise. I will say this about the story, it stays mostly clear of the clichés that plague most romantic comedies. There's no dramatic misunderstanding that sets the couple against each other (a strategy employed to great effect in intellectual fare like Three's Company) and no sudden third-act epiphany that sends one or both parties rushing frantically back into each other's arms, probably to the strains of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." The script, by Segel and director Nicholas Stoller, is more organic, with Tom and Violet generally behaving like a couple real human beings would (Tom's mountain-man period aside).

But the movie feels...disjointed, somehow. There's little effective transition between scenes, and it feels in spots like the intent was for the cast to improvise their dialogue, but the only one who seems comfortable doing so is Chris Pratt, playing Alex, Tom's obnoxious friend and co-worker.

Or maybe it's just Segel. Blunt is fine as Violet, or at least she was able to sell me on the concept of this lovely woman falling for this emotionally immature goofball. Pratt and Alison Brie (as Violet's sister Suzie) steal most of their scenes together, though Brie's English accent is somewhere between Madonna and Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Rhys Ifans (as Professor Childs) is also deceptively sleazy...I guess when it comes down to it, I liked everyone in the movie except the male lead, which makes total buy-in a tad difficult.

And again, I don't even *dislike* Segel (shit, how can you harbor bad feelings toward the guy who let it all hang out in Forgetting Sarah Marshall?), but for whatever reason, it feels like he's phoning it in here. I understand part of his portrayal hinges on his dissatisfaction with moving to Michigan and what follows, but he sure looked a hell of a lot more enthusiastic in The Muppets.

Speaking of Muppets, there's a scene between Blunt and Brie involving two Henson characters that by all rights should have had me reaching for a barf bag, but ended up being one of the sweetest scenes in the film.

Fortunately, The Five-Year Engagement dodges the sappiness that plagues many of Apatow's efforts, so give Segel points for that.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar