Weddings and marriage and brides and grooms and bridesmaids and crashers and hangovers and getting knocked up on top of 27 dresses before the bride war begins. That's what's at the movies, anxiety-comedy heaped upon frenzied distress. On TV: bridezillas and whatever that one about redneck weddings is called and then the one about making sure you hustle off most of those fat-wads so you can say yes to a dress. And then out in the actual world are people murdering their freshly acquired spouses by pushing them off honeymoon cruise ships or constructing brutal new laws to protect the alleged sanctity of the civil institution from the gays.
"The happiest day of your life" is officially a no-fun zone at this point, for pretty much everybody.
It's like we've found a convenient mule to carry around our heaviest fears. Every bit of terror and panic of the past decade, whether it's fallout from 9/11 and war or from the collapse of the economy and the subsequent powerlessness people feel as their lives are controlled more and more by the whims of corporations, seems to be dog-piling on top our romantic comedies, playing itself out on an interpersonal level in the culture's creative output. There's only one Doomsday Preppers in the world, but Katherine Heigl is building a movie career surfing on a wave of love-n-marriage-freak-out comedies.
Which brings us to this movie, one being sold on the back of its connection to Bridesmaids (via Judd Apatow's production arm), one that sort of, sometimes, bumps into the weirdly affecting, reality-based unhappiness that Kristen Wiig managed to infuse into her successful debut. Like the less-seen Drew Barrymore comedy, Going the Distance, it's mostly about the seeming impossibility of sustaining a relationship when both partners have careers they don't want to give up. Jason Segel is an up-and-coming chef in San Francisco, while Emily Blunt's post-graduate career in academia takes her away to the snowy Midwest. If they're ever going to get married, something's got to give, but for almost the entire long-winded running time, it's not going to be either of these two.
That makes Going the Distance the more honest of these films, because its no-win plot is predicated on the cruel fact that both Barrymore and co-star Justin Long work at jobs that pay less than the kind of living wage that an average factory worker in the 1950s could use to provide for an entire family. Here Segel is simply spineless and Blunt is selfish, nothing deeper than that. It makes them much harder to root for. You wish one of them would just, you know, love the other one enough to suck it up and uproot themselves without resentment, and you wish it would happen a lot more quickly than it eventually does. The stretches of dead-air-filled non-laughing get longer and longer as the film slows to a crawl.
And I realize I've devoted most of the review to the secondary problem, one that's less important where comedy is concerned, so here's the main letdown: it's just not as funny as it should be. By Apatow standards that's still funnier than most of what's out there (see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, for example, and by "see" I mean "avoid at all costs"), but these folks have set a pretty high bar over the past decade, so B-level work feels more disappointing than it otherwise might.
It's kind of what happens when you take 80 minutes of comedy, stretch it into two full hours, drop a large helping of talented supporting cast members into the mix (of special note: Mindy Kaling, Brian Posehn and Chris Pratt, whose short, sharp moments are collectively funnier and more emotionally resonant than anything the leads having going on) and you've got a movie that takes as long to move itself through its motions as the last Catholic Church wedding I attended.