THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT Review

"The Five-Year Engagement" has a lot going for it, but doesn't seem to care too much for pacing or trimming around the edges. It is a good film no doubt, a very funny one that had a few of the most genuine laugh out loud  moments I've experienced in a long time. It has a stellar cast and a director/writer team in Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) that know how and when to bring the funny, the subtle, and the touching. Segel has become comfortable as the reliable slob of a charming guy. If his onscreen persona is anything like that of his real life, he has to be one of the nicest guys ever. I consider "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" to be one of the more recent comedy classics so to say I was looking forward to this would be a bit of an understatement. The only problem I had with the film was figuring out the gist of the title itself. It seemed a problem that was at first unnecessary and could be worked around in a much easier manner than the script seemed to have played it. Now, obviously this is a movie and I realize things happen in movies that in a sense "make them movies" while the conflict here would likely never take this route in the real world. In the end it comes down to the fact that the movie isn't really about the pro-longed engagement at all but is simply an easy way of putting that it examines the current generations need to postpone everything until it is perfect while wasting one's life away in the process of figuring it all about. It turns into people in their mid-20's who feel a little behind, but still on the right track who grow into their 30's and realize they've wasted enough time to put them even further behind.

Suzie (Alison Brie) won't give Alex (Chris Pratt)
the time of day when they first meet.
One thing I will say about "The Five-Year Engagement" that I really enjoyed is the steps it took to go beyond a standard romantic comedy. It created a fleshed out and realistic world filled with diverse and entertaining people. Whether we were in the couple's hometown of San Francisco or the cold days in Michigan our main characters are always surrounded by people who become a part of their lives as anyone naturally would when they relocate. For the first half an hour or so the film rolls along at a brilliant pace with joke after joke landing, even if some scenes feel unnecessary it isn't a bother yet. Tom (Segel) and Violet (the wonderful Emily Blunt) have been dating for a year and it is obvious to everyone including him how lucky and how in love with Violet he is. He proposes, she says yes and everything is going hunky-dory until Violet gets a position at Michigan University rather then the preferred Berkeley. Tom is an up and coming chef that was likely to be promoted to running his own restaurant soon but knows this is Violet's life long dream and is not going to allow himself to hold her back. he can cook elsewhere. Such is his thought and the rest of the audiences. Meanwhile, on the other side of things Violet's sister Suzie (Community's Alison Brie) and Tom's best friend Alex (Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt) have a one night stand that results in unplanned bliss. The theme of the film being you can't always plan your life to work out how you want it, but instead you sometimes just have to let it happen.

From Left: Vaneetha (Mindy Kailing) Ming (Randall Park),
Doug (kevin Hart) Violet (Emily Blunt) and Winton
(Rhys Ifans) study their psychology subjects.
While the story made me worry prior to the film it was actually the one thing that impressed me more than anything about the film. What detracts from this realistic premise though is that Segel and Stoller are unable to sacrifice a joke for the sake of pacing. The result is that this throws off the tone of the film that instead sometimes feels like an extended unrated cut rather than the well-oiled machine of a movie the studio would release on average theater-goers. There is a weird part in the second act of the film where Tom and Violet end up resenting one another. While we could have seen this coming as Violet, from the beginning, seemed to fancy her Psychology professor (a great Rhys Ifans) a little too much, it goes to such lengths that the audience is almost convinced these two not being together might not be a bad idea. The only thing that saves the movie from sacrificing itself is the fact that Segel and Blunt as actors could probably create chemistry with a cucumber and when put together,  the chemistry is inevitable. They are both equally charming and appealing. They are the cool, but care free human beings every person of their generation aspires to be. The glue of their chemistry is what makes it worth sticking around till the end for. If it weren't for Blunt's way of making everything seem so reasonable and Segel's persona of the love-torn good guy the movie would have become too distracted by it's own universe to even allow these guys to re-connect. This is a movie though and the resolution that will "make it a movie" does happen. So, while the studio might have let them get away with throwing extra gags in the mix for an average Apatowian runtime, it would never allow them to release a tragedy rather than a happy rom-com.

Tom (Jason Segel) and Tarquin (Brian Posehn) become
fast friends in The Five-Year Engagement.
While there are clearly several issues I could take with "The Five-Year Engagement" there is also alot to love and no matter how random it became or how overly long it seemed to last, I wasn't ever mad or irritated by the fact it wasn't over yet. Again, it comes down to the people. Director Stoller not only hit a home run with the pairing of Brie and Pratt who nearly steal the show, but also in populating the couple's Michigan settlement with entertaining folks. Mindy Kailing (The Office) and Kevin Hart (Think Like A Man) show up as fellow grad students at Michigan University and Segel's Tom befriends his alcoholic boss played to perfection by comedian Brian Posehn. Then there is the hilarious Chris Parnell. Parnell was never one of my favorite Saturday Night Live cast members and his movie roles have always been more of sparse cameos than anything else, but here he is the relentless stay at home dad that takes up knitting because he gets so bored watching his kids nap. He is present to serve as the embodiment of what Tom doesn't want to become. he has let all of his aspirations go by the wayside in order for his wife to accomplish her career goals. Parnell balances his ridiculous dialogue with the tragic undertones they imply quite nicely and nearly steals every scene he is in. It is this kind of random humor and consistent hilarity that make these raunchy but sweet comedies work. "The Five-Year Engagement" is certainly not the best of the bunch, but it isn't like you're walking into a Kate Hudson comedy either. I expected slightly more from Segel and Stoller, but there flair for touching on real emotion while exploiting the funny of everyday life is still present here. I can't be mad, but I hope their next outing is a step forward rather then one in the same direction.