The Five Year Engagement Review
by Christian Becker
Right from the get go, I knew I would find enjoyment from The Five Year Engagement. When I saw that Jason Segel was a part of this movie, I was sold. Not to mention one of my favorite writer/directors of comedy, Nicolas Stoller (Director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek), was behind the camera. This movie screams generic on paper but it is anything but that. This movie does pretty much everything a romantic comedy should do, but rarely does.
Segel and Emily Blunt play Tom and Violet. A couple living in San Francisco who have just decided to tie the knot and live happily together in each others’ arms. Then Violet gets a job offer in Michigan that puts their lives on hold for, oh, I don’t know, about five years or so. Segel becomes unhappy with his new lifestyle and the couple begins to face new problems and challenges that puts them on edge. Most of the movie is hilarious but other times it’s pretty emotional watching this couple have to push their wedding back year after year.
This movie could have easily been stupid. On paper, it sounds like a cliched romantic comedy with some laughs but no substance. If that’s what you thought going in then I am pleased to tell you that you are very wrong. Segel has fantastic comedic timing and Blunt has such great chemistry with anyone she’s in a scene with that it’s a wonder she’s not in more movies. Blunt gets her own story line with different problems than the men, but they still matter to us, because she is a powerful female character that we want to see succeed. The movie handles its jokes and drama quite well and it mostly felt like a movie that Judd Apatow was a part of (maybe it has to do with the fact that he produced it). Yes, Apatow (director of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People) basically rewrote the raunchy comedy rule book and found a happy medium where movies can have gross-out humor and simple conversations among friends, yet still be smart and heartfelt. That’s what The Five Year Engagement is, a movie that spins the “Rom-Com” genre and gets you to actually care about the characters and situations they face rather than just saying “Oh, I know where this is going.” Even the ending, which is really expected, is played off in such a goofy and fun way that you’ve seen it before without actually seeing it before.
In addition to Segel and Blunt being pitch perfect in their roles, the supporting cast works wonders too. Allison Brie (of Community fame) plays Violet’s sister and Chris Pratt (of Parks and Recreation fame) play’s Tom best friend. The two of them have such funny characters, laugh-out-loud lines and an interesting story that I wouldn’t mind seeing a spin off that is about them some day. Needless to say, they stole the show when on screen. Also, Kevin Hart has a small role in here too. He doesn’t have much range when it comes to movies, but he’s a comedian playing small roles in comedies, what else is he going to do?
Having a comedy run over two hours is risky business no matter what it’s actually about, so there will be some down time among the pacing. Unfortunately, the film does suffer from an uneven pace at a few small points in the movie. At one moment you’ll be watching a riotous scene in which Jason Segel has transformed into a wilderness hunter and makes proud comments about his slaughtered deer collection, and the next you will see serious relationship problems that Tom and Violet face. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have the drama in there because that’s part of what makes the movie so special, but when the transition between comedy and drama is thin and jerky, things can get awkward for your audience real fast. A movie like this can work for two hours, but you need to have it tightly directed to the point where everything is where it should be and all the fat is trimmed during editing. With all it’s false endings and thin transitions, it seemed to me that someone dropped the ball somewhere in post production, but it never got to the point where I stopped enjoying the movie just because I thought it was going to be over when really, it wasn’t.
The main thing I look for in a great comedy is the smart writing in its script. I mean, I like a silly, screwball comedy like every other guy (I’m one of the ten people on Earth who liked Hot Rod), but what separates the good comedies from the great ones is all in a witty and unpredictable script and the actors who can deliver on it, which Segel and Blunt do marvelously. When looking at a comedy check list, The Five Year Engagement hits every mark and proves once again that it’s okay to be silly and raunchy, just as long as you are smart about it.