The Five-Year Engagement

5Year-Engagement 001The Five-Year Engagement  (2012)    Universal Pictures/Comedy    RT: 124 minutes    Rated R (language, sexual content, adult situations)    Director: Nicholas Stoller    Screenplay: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller    Music: Michael Andrews    Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe    Release date: April 27, 2012    Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Jacki Weaver, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Randall Park, Brian Posehn, Chris Parnell, David Paymer, Mimi Kennedy, Dakota Johnson.     

Rating: fullstar1fullstar1star-empty1star-empty1

Love means never having to say you're sorry for dragging out the engagement for five years. However, I would like an apology from the makers of The Five-Year Engagement, a romantic comedy that's more laborious than hilarious. Although it has a few scattered amusing moments, it's not enough to justify a running time of just over two hours. The movie has a decent premise, but the filmmakers fail to do anything interesting with it. Tom Solomon (Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Violent Barnes (Blunt, The Adjustment Bureau) are very much in love with each other, it's their one year anniversary and Tom decides to pop the question. She accepts and starts planning the wedding, but the trip to the altar is not going to be an easy one. He's a chef in one of San Francisco's top restaurants and she's an academic looking for a research position at Berkeley (University of California). They turn her down, but she does get accepted at the University of Michigan. This means two things: 1) the couple will have to move and 2) the wedding will have to be delayed for two years. Tom consents to both of these, but he soon regrets his decision. He can't find a decent job in his new town and he can't stop thinking about the head chef position that he left behind in San Francisco. Tom comes to resent his fiancee's career success and starts having some sort of mental collapse (he grows some ugly facial hair, he takes up hunting). The wedding date keeps getting pushed back farther and the relationship becomes strained to the point where it looks like the wedding might not happen after all. Is their love strong enough to withstand the slings and crossbow arrows of this not-so-outrageous fortune?

the-five-year-engagementTo be perfectly honest, I find many of writer/director/producer Judd Apatow's movies to be overrated. I didn't really like Anchorman, Knocked Up and Step Brothers. I thought that Pineapple Express could have been much funnier (it's about pot heads, for Pete's sake!). In his defense, I did like Superbad and Get Him to the Greek. You can add The Five-Year Engagement to the list of Apatow comedies that I didn't enjoy. At best, it's sporadically amusing with a running gag about grandparents dropping dead (that's why we don't delay weddings!) and a funny bit involving a small child and a loaded crossbow. Chris Parnell (SNL) contributes a decent supporting performance as a fellow faculty husband with a passion for knitting unique and ugly sweaters. Brian Posehn is amusing as Tom's pickle-obsessed boss at a local sandwich shop. Again, it's not enough to sustain a running time of more than two hours. I don't understand why Apatow feels the need to make such long movies. I also don't understand why he populates his comedies with such unlikable characters. There's a subplot about the marriage of Tom's obnoxious best friend Alex (Pratt, What's Your Number?) and Violet's annoying sister Suzie (Brie, Scream 4). At Tom and Violet's engagement party, Alex sings a completely inappropriate song about Tom's long list of former lovers. With friends like that, who needs enemas, right? The most grating character would have to be Violet's lecherous boss, Professor Childs (Ifans, Notting Hill), a man so pretentious that he gave his dog an unpronounceable Gaelic name (something like "Gwryth", I think). It should come as no surprise that becomes a major point of contention between the young couple and sets in motion a chain of events that might bring their relationship to a crashing end.

 It's too bad that The Five-Year Engagement turns out to be such a disappointment, it does have two appealing actors in the leading roles. Jason Segel, most recently in the very funny Jeff, Who Lives at Home, has a shaggy dog appeal to him. He's has the mind of a child, the personality of a doofus and the body of Sasquatch. One can't help but like this actor who we first saw as a high school stoner in the short-lived cult TV series Freaks and Geeks (also an Apatow creation). What's especially cool about Segel is that he can do vulgar comedy like this and something completely innocent like last fall's The Muppets with equal conviction and enthusiasm. Best known for her memorable supporting role in The Devil Wears Prada, Emily Blunt proves herself worthy of superstar status, she's equally adept at comedy and drama (have you seen The Young Victoria yet?). Hell, she can even do a sci-fi/thriller (last year's The Adjustment Bureau)! She's funny, she has a great speaking voice and she's very easy on the eyes. What's there not to love about Emily Blunt? Segel and Blunt have decent chemistry together and they make a cute couple when they're not fighting over all the BS that stands between them and the wedding altar. I would say that The Five-Year Engagement offers a comparatively realistic look at a modern relationship and the various complications that often prevent the whole "happily ever after" ending, but it's not the kind of thing the audience would want to see explored in great depth in the context of a vulgar Judd Apatow comedy. I respect what director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek) attempts to do, I simply didn't enjoy the movie as much as I should have.

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