Dawdling ‘Engagement’ doesn’t quite engage

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2012 3:50pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

It doesn’t quite last five years, but “The Five-Year Engagement” is long for a romantic comedy (124 minutes), and indulges in the dawdling that marks a Judd Apatow-produced picture.

Such dawdling fits the main couple, a pair of San Francisco lovebirds whose engagement hits a snag when she lands a post-graduate academic slot in Ann Arbor. This will delay the marriage by a couple of years, but hey — it’s true love, they’re young, no big deal.

If it were no big deal, the movie wouldn’t last 124 minutes. The couple is played by Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, so the time doesn’t entirely drag, even if the thing doesn’t have a lot of moviemaking savvy behind it.

Segel (who co-wrote the script with director Nicholas Stoller — they also did “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) plays an amiable chef, a very slight variation on the nice-guy goof Segel has played elsewhere.

Blunt, having more fun here than she did in “Salmon Fishing on the Yemen,” is studying psychology, working in Michigan under the tutelage of a flashy professor (Rhys Ifans) who looms as a possible romantic rival at some point.

She does behavioral experiments involving day-old doughnuts, while her fiance struggles to find the kind of high-class culinary gig he enjoyed in San Francisco. Meanwhile, we see Ann Arbor through his frustrated eyes, and the local chamber of commerce will not be pleased with the movie’s frosty view.

The tensions that arise are familiar, although the movie fills in the space with talented comic actors such as Lake Stevens High grad Chris Pratt, and Alison Brie and Lauren Weedman.

A repeated flashback to the couple’s first meeting — on a New Year’s Eve — turns out to be a poignant device. And for some reason, the unfortunate demise of a group of grandparents pays off as the movie’s most effective running gag, although I realize it doesn’t sound all that funny on the page.

Everyone involved in the film appears to have worked hard to make this something more than just a once-over-lightly time-killer, and the sincerity shows. It’s even funny at times, with some accurate observations about the whole man-woman thing scattered about.

Having acknowledged all that, there’s still not enough that’s distinctive about “The Five-Year Engagement” to really stick in the mind. It has a couple of appealing stars, which ought to help it find a following, plus a pleasant selection of Van Morrison songs.

And there’s the Apatow blend of sincerity and scatology, a defining factor of our movie period. To point out that some of the bodily-function jokes seem completely unnecessary and really gross is to risk sounding hopelessly square, but the sincerity part is more notable: everybody’s so gosh-darned open and sharing and healthy about it, you begin to yearn for a little dysfunctional irony.

“The Five-Year Engagement” (2½ stars)

Jason Segel and Emily Blunt play a couple whose imminent marriage keeps getting pushed into the future. Despite the appealing actors and some pleasant moments of observation, there isn’t quite enough snap behind this well-intentioned comedy to justify its 124-minute running time.

Rating: R, for language, subject matter.

Showing: Alderwood, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridien, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade.

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