The Avengers are not the only super troop assembling this month: The comedy dream team that brought us “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — writer-director Nicholas Stoller (“Get Him to the Greek”), writer-star Jason Segel (“The Muppets”) and producer Judd Apatow (“Funny People”) — are back with “The Five-Year Engagement.”

“The Five-Year Engagement”

Quality 16 and Rave

The movie begins with Tom (Segel) and Violet’s (Emily Blunt, “Sunshine Cleaning”) all-too-perfect engagement. This starry-eyed, rosy-cheeked couple seems to be headed to paint-by-the-numbers bliss before their wedding plans are upstaged by the shotgun wedding of Violet’s pregnant sister Suzie (Alison Brie, “Scream 4”) and Tom’s best friend Alex (Chris Pratt, “Jennifer’s Body”). Further complicating things, Violet receives an acceptance letter to a graduate program at the University of Michigan and the couple has to trade their swanky, sunny San Franciscan life for the snow and simplicity of small-town living in Ann Arbor.

Starting where most end and far exceeding the usual 90-minute time frame, “Engagement” makes it clear that it does not wish to be a standard romantic comedy. The humor weaves between the pants-dropping crudeness of “Sarah Marshall” and a lighter, more enchanting charm that mostly emanates from Tom, the awkward, adorable, borderline-schmaltzy character Segel has become a bit too comfortable playing. Not all of the jokes work, though: Tom’s deep descent into “Michigan life” — growing a woodsman beard, making mead, and hunting game — is too absurd and calculated to be anything but wince-inducing.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t delve into Violet’s psyche as it does with Tom, and, just like most of the women in an Apatow rom-com, she becomes the problem. It’s her choice to move to Ann Arbor and pursue her goals that stifles Tom, making him feel like less of a man, and it’s unsettling to see an actress with the talent and bold presence of Emily Blunt playing a mere obstacle to a man’s happiness.

But Blunt and Segel’s unexpected onscreen chemistry as well as the polished script make Tom and Violet’s engagement much more realistic than the gooeyness that penetrates most romantic comedies. And as with any Apatow film, the supporting cast is just as strong. Pratt and Brie bring some of the film’s most deserved laughs, particularly with a passionate, closed-eyes cover of Caetano Veloso’s “Cucurrucucu Paloma.” Mindy Kaling (“Despicable Me”) is unfortunately underused as Violet’s classmate Vaneetha, but Chris Parnell makes a hilariously pitiful “faculty spouse” who spends his time knitting oversized ugly sweaters. And Rhys Ifans (“Anonymous”) is perfectly cast as the eccentric, pompous psych professor and apparent master of parkour.

For being a film with the obvious end goal of a wedding, the stakes for getting there aren’t very high. This isn’t “When Harry Met Sally,” a story that simply — but excellently — explored whether or not its couple were the ones for each other. Tom and Violet are already living and sleeping together, already sharing their lives. The only piece missing is the wedding, and it’s hard to care as much as the characters do about the continually botched plans since everything about the movie makes weddings seem obsolete — Stoller and Segel’s script just doesn’t have the audacity to come to that conclusion.

Even after all the ways it departs from form, “Engagement” is still a boy-meets-girl rom-com that excites, but never touches too tellingly on the supposed life lessons it wishes to impart.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.