Jason Segel is an established cog in the modern Hollywood comedy machine, popping up in Judd Apatow movies and penning a few comedy scripts himself. Initially renowned for playing the lovable buffoon Marshall Eriksen in the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother, he has succeeded in transplanting the character type to the big screen. He often attempts to shrug off the mould he has been cast in and at times he succeeds; however in The Five-Year Engagement, despite a noble effort, his performance is ultimately devoid of energy.
The title is fairly self-explanatory as the film follows the prolonged engagement of Tom Solomon, a successful sous-chef, and his fiancée Violet Barnes, an ambitious social psychologist. Both are committed to each other as well as their careers – and what follows are delays, sacrifices and excuses on the way to the aisle. The script, which Segel co-wrote with director Nicholas Stoller, has good comedic set-ups, but the supporting cast fail to pull them off. Most of them have no chemistry with one another, leading to a spew of contrived comedy. To top it off the supporting characters are stereotypes who only assist in expounding clichés and entrenched ideology about marriage and relationships. The leading characters are somewhat stronger and Emily Blunt cannot be faulted. She takes what is there and delivers a good performance, never feeling tempted to plunge into the infested pool of melodrama actresses in romantic comedies tend to swim in.
A frustrating aspect of the film is that the passage of time is not clearly indicated. Considering the title, this is something which should have been given more thought. Before you know it, years have passed even though it feels like you are still stuck in the previous scene. There are several sweeter moments, such as the bungled proposal in the beginning which comes wonderfully full circle in the end, and the “Muppet” fight Violet has with her sister is bizarre yet strangely touching. Ultimately the film struggles to pull off the romance and the comedy and, like its characters, stumbles awkwardly along in an attempt to tie the knot and form a union.