IMAO (that’s “In My Arrogant Opinion”), actor-writer Jason Segel and director-writer Nicholas Stoller crafted a sublime romantic soufflé in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall. That dream partnership gets dinged a bit in the frustratingly uneven The Five-Year Engagement, which drags and sags at 124 minutes. Luckily, the movie never runs on sitcom empty. How could it, with a terrific cast, led by Segel as San Francisco sous chef Tom Solomon and the delectable Emily Blunt as Violet Barnes, a doctoral candidate in psychology and Tom’s beguilingly British fiancé.
The plot, such as it is, keeps creating obstacles to delay the marriage of Tom and Violet. That’s it. Sometimes those obstacles – like Tom having to give up his job to move to Michigan so Violet can get her doctorate – seem so contrived you want to grab a bullhorn and shout, “break up, already!” But Segel and Blunt are a dream pair of bruised romantics. And Stoller has a gift for bringing out the best in supporting players – Chris Pratt as Tom’s zany chef buddy; Brian Posehn as Tom’s pickle-obsessed boss at Zingerman’s deli in Ann Arbor; Animal Kingdom Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver as Violet’s peppery mom; Rhys Ifans as a psych prof with his eye on Violet; Mindy Kaling as Violet’s researcher pal; and Chris Parnell as Tom’s fellow faculty husband. Best of all is the dynamite Alison Brie (Pete Campbell’s wife on Mad Men) as Violet’s sister Suzie. A scene, late in the film, with the sisters trying to have an adult talk in front of Suzie’s kids is a laugh riot, mostly because Suzie speaks in the voice of Elmo while Violet does Cookie Monster. OK, you have to be there, but the moment is memorably hilarious. The Five-Year Engagement is like that, moving in fits and starts, but building a rooting interest in its characters that slaps a goofy smile on your face and keeps it there.