The youngish couple at the heart of "The Five-Year Engagement" fell in love the day they met, but something is stopping them from getting married. Is it religion? Their social castes? A long-simmering blood feud?
Those plot devices were long ago rendered obsolete by modern American life, so what's the obstacle now? Nothing, really, except that Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) seem easily distracted by life's little curveballs and in no apparent hurry to make a decision. As a result, "The Five-Year Engagement" becomes two things: an accurate reflection of a new generation of postponement-prone 30-somethings, and a rather uninteresting story.
Segel and Blunt make a likable pair, but they're playing demographic types, not characters. Tom is a chef at a tony San Francisco restaurant (Chris Pratt plays his obnoxious sidekick, Alex) and Violet is a burgeoning psych professor. In a gender-role reversal, it's Tom who derails his career by joining Violet in Ann Arbor, where she's accepted a university post. As the wedding recedes into the future, the guilt-inducing deaths of various grandparents provide a running gag.
Most of the humor comes as West Coast Tom adjusts to inland Michigan (hunting jokes, cold-weather jokes), which seems like a theme from a different comedy. There are some minor plot complications -- Violet's predatory boss (Rhys Ifans), Tom's sexy co-worker (Tracee Chimo) -- but they're brief and unconvincing. It's also easy to lose patience with Violet, whose commitment phobia is hinted at but never explained.
Director Nicholas Stoller, who co-wrote with Segel, tries to liven things up with R-rated language and the odd icky joke (why is Violet barfing?), but he's facing an unsolvable dilemma. "The Five-Year Engagement" is a modern romantic comedy with none of the traditional pleasures.
PLOT Two youngish lovers keep postponing the big day. RATING R (language, brief nudity, crude humor)
PLAYING AT Area theaters.
BOTTOM LINE A mildly amusing romantic comedy, though it's hard to care much about two people kept apart by nothing but their own apathy.
The skinny on Jason Segel's weight loss
So who put the hammer on Segel, who also is the movie's co-screenwriter?
"The studio president," Segel told Letterman, referring to Universal Pictures honcho Rob Meyer. "I was told that it had to be conceivable that Emily Blunt would ever choose me to be her husband. Which is fair."
A trainer was sent to the set so Segel could work out twice a day, and the actor's food was monitored as well, according to CNN.com.
"I didn't enjoy it," Segel said. "But what they didn't anticipate is that I'm very clever. I play a chef in the movie, so there are a lot of scenes where I had to eat, so I would pay my co-stars nominal amounts of money to mess up their lines during the scenes so I would get to keep eating."
Nevertheless, Segel ended up dropping 35 pounds.
In real life, Segel, who also stars in the CBS comedy "How I Met Your Mother," is dating actress Michelle Williams.