Note: I wrote this a while ago, but I was told at my screening that the version I saw was not the finished version to be released on April 27, so I decided to hold off on my review (spoiler alert: lukewarm) until closer to the release date just in case they are actually working on tightening up the film.
Funny and formulaic in a similar fashion to last year’s Bridesmaids, this romantic comedy revolves around two successful 30-somethings as they get engaged, but proceed to continually put off the wedding. The first scene is the proposal, which the girl, Violet, realizes is going on too early, but forces her man, Tom, to go through the motions of to fulfill her childhood fantasy. The entire film teeters on that level of being forced, arbitrary, and strained. From then, we see how a medley of problems spring up that keep Tom and Violet from comfortably committing to a date for the wedding, and the two begin resenting each other for taking their respective professional lives too seriously. As their friends and family start to catch on that they are not economizing their time for a reason, their interpersonal conflicts exacerbate to the point that their very relationship is in jeopardy.
THEY END UP TOGETHER!!! If telling you that has ruined the prospect of seeing this movie AT ALL, then this is not for you. This is a very safe, happy-fun-time romantic comedy where everybody (and their families) are successful, genial, and only quirky or eccentric enough to make their conversations easily framed comic set pieces. There are precious few surprises to be had in way of narrative, and the occasional ambitious, interesting turns the story makes are undercut by the grand predictability of the rest of the film. However, writers Jason Segel (also starring as Tom) and Nicolas Stoller, who were also responsible for the more breezy, lightweight Forgetting Sarah Marshall, bring their frat-boy sensibilities to the table as well, which accounts for many of the laughs to be found here. Judd Apatow produced, so, inevitably, the intimate stuff is intermixed with gross, inappropriate bathroom humor (Tom drunkenly runs through the woods naked, and Violet, at one point, swallows her own vomit) but a good amount of the more subtle character moments have a humor that rings true. The fact that we buy Tom and Violet’s relationship is a testament to the dialogue (and the actors), because the larger plot makes the prospect of these two having any sort of lasting happiness a daunting proposition. But alas, the film is caught in an uncomfortable trifecta of styles, with Segal’s attempts at human understanding and Apatow’s increasingly lazy, predictable scatalogical humor mixing uncomfortably with the prototypical romantic comedy framework.
While Segal and Emily Blunt, as Tom and Violet, respectively, do a decent job centering the film (despite the unlikelihood of their coupling), the supporting cast is huuuge and, consistently, overshadows them. The largest tragedy for me, was that my two personal favorite performers in the cast, Tim Heidecker and Kumail Nanjiani, literally have the smallest speaking roles of anyone in the film (and they’re still funny). In larger roles, varied faces such as David Paymer, Jacki Weaver, Jim Piddock, Chris Parnell, and Brian Posehn turn in strong, memorable roles, while Rhys Ifans, Kevin Hart, and Mindy Kaling (as Violet’s workmates) come off as forced and unfunny in their attempts to match their personal stylings with the mechanations and contrivances of the plot. But the cast, as a whole, is anchored by Chris Pratt and Alison Brie as Tom’s best friend and Violet’s sister, respectively. Brie, who appears to be springboarding from the impending cancellation of Community with a clear-cut, warm screen presence (even with an English accent), has a sense of self-consciousness and fragility unseen in contemporaries like Blunt and Kaling. Pratt, on the other hand, as evidenced by his work here, as well as in Take Me Home Tonight, Parks and Recreations, and Strangers With Candy, has this frat-boy shtick down cold; he has singlehandedly injected new life in an archetype that seemed to have been deflated for over a decade, as evidenced by post-modern party movies like The Hangover where the party kicks the leads asses (as opposed to the other way around, as it would probably be with Pratt). If he can be this funny in every movie, he can play this role until he gets tired of it or he becomes too old, whichever comes first (or whichever happened to Seann William Scott). As in most romantic comedies, the brunt of the comic energy is provided by the cast, but they are given enough, and are talented enough, to push the film over the finish line into “decent” territory.
Slightly Recommended to fans of the cast, or of this brand of romantic comedy which includes Bridesmaids and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (although the latter film is more consistent and funny). There are lines and moments that are actually really well done and memorable (Pratt has a wedding song that is pitch-perfect in conception and execution, and Segel de-evolves into a mountain-man-esque hunter with hilarious results), but the film as a whole does not live up to the high point of its best gags.