The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

21 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Really? Five years? Eh, whatever. Should be an interesting TEN-year separation. (Hey, there’s a sequel idea! But I digress.)

“The Five-Year Engagement” is a dopey romantic comedy from the guys that brought us “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (director/co-writer Nicholas Stoller, star/co-writer Jason Segel, and producer Judd Apatow), and while it’s not quite up there with that hilarious, heartwarming treasure of a movie, it’s still a nicely-done romantic comedy. This is good in my book (or review), especially compared to the many terrible romcoms that just keep coming to the dismay of us critics, but the general public seems to eat up. Come on, how many sappy novels did Nicholas Sparks write that his film adaptations keep coming every year? But I digress.

Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are an appealing couple and exhibit great chemistry on-screen. They play Tom and Violet, whose story begins just how most romcoms would end—a marriage proposal. In an opening scene, Tom accidentally ruins the surprise for Violet that he has set up for a proposal during a skit, but nevertheless, Violet says “yes” and the movie begins.

But the big question after the OTHER big question is, when’s the big date? Violet tries to plan the perfect wedding, while waiting for a college professorial opening in psychology, and Tom is doing well at work as a chef, a job that might get him a promotion. But soon, things start to spiral downward when Violet’s dream job offer arrives. The job is in Michigan, not in the Bay Area, meaning Tom has to quit his job, relocate with Violet, and start anew. Violet is happy with her new job. But the wedding doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon because of this. As time goes by, Tom starts to become more resentful of Violet’s newly developed success and the continuing engagement seems like it could working its way up to a breakup.

The romcom rulebook states that there must be many concerned family relatives and the best friends who are simply there to provide comic relief. I’m usually very sick of these people because they slow things down and cause the kinds of clichés that I truly cannot stand in romcoms anymore (misunderstandings, revelations, etc.). And while they do slow things down at certain spots, and there is a slight misunderstanding involving Violet and her new boss (Rhys Ifans), they don’t damage the story to the point where it becomes annoying. In particular, we have Tom’s wisecracking best friend Alex (Chris Pratt) and Violet’s sassy sister Suzie (Alison Brie) who meet and married well before Tom and Violet. These two do what their stereotypes have them do, but they still provide laughs. Brie, in particular, has a hilarious imitation of Elmo as she discreetly discusses this “five-year engagement” (yes, the title tells no lie) with Violet in front of her four-year-old daughter. (And Blunt, as wonderful as she is, deserves credit for her equally-funny imitation of the Cookie Monster.)

There are also some funny supporting characters involving Ifans and his psych-study group, which includes Mindy Kaling and Kevin Hart who make the most of their scenes with some very funny one-liners.

One major problem I had with “The Five-Year Engagement” is that it goes on for too long at two hours and four minutes of running time. It especially shows in many scenes that have made their point already and yet are still rolling. You just want to yell “Cut!” at certain points or just wish the editing was tighter.

But what makes “The Five-Year Engagement” worth watching are the performances from Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. Segel has always played a likable, hulking, sometimes-dim guy and he’s just as appealing here. Even when he makes some mistakes (and there are people who even rank him out as stupid), it’s hard not to like him. Emily Blunt is marvelous as always. She’s likable, pretty, funny, and just a fabulous screen presence. I will watch her in anything she acts in.

“The Five-Year Engagement” has just what we want in a romcom—two appealing lead actors and some very funny gags (including one involving a babysitting job and a crossbow). I just wish it was tightened up at least a little bit in the editing process. There’s a very good romantic comedy buried in filler, but it’s better than buried in…well, never mind.

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