By Tim Posada, 5/03/2012
Marriage is one of the most important decisions in most people’s lives, but what about the time between a proposal and “I do?” For Violet (Emily Blunt) and Tom (Jason Segel), juggling opposing career goals and “saving the date” are not so copacetic, leading to an on-the-nose film title, “The Five-Year Engagement”. Sure, that might be a long time for this distraught couple, but it returns a solid handful of laughs for the rest of us.
Tom and Violet briefly bask in the high of their recent engagement before life takes a turn for the difficult. Unable to land a post-graduate job at University of California, Berkley, Violet accepts a position at the University of Michigan. Unfortunately, what is good news for her is a substantial sacrifice for Tom, who must leave his sous chef job at one of the top restaurants in San Francisco, just shy of promotion. Violet’s research in social psychology develops notoriety, but Michigan has little to offer a culinary master, especially in a college town with a palate for fried foods, hence Tom ends up making sandwiches.
Luckily, Tom makes several friends, including stay-at-home husband, Bill (“SNL’s” Chris Parnell), who teaches him how to hunt deer and crochet sweaters, and co-worker Tarquin (comedian Brian Posehn), who knows his way around a bottle all too well. Making matters worse, Violet’s sister, Suzie (“Community’s” Alison Brie), turns an accidental pregnancy with Tom’s idiot best friend, Alex (“Parks and Recreation’s” Chris Pratt), into a loving relationship, starting with a killer romantic wedding.
And adding division to relationship envy, we’ve got Violet’s boss, Dr. Winton Childs (an always enjoyable Rhys Ifans), using his psychoanalytic tools to drive a wedge between the once happy couple.
The question becomes, “can the scholar and cook find a way to make it work, or have they merely been star-crossed lovers all along?”
The Jason Segel/Nicholas Stoller writing team reunite in an attempt to recapture the magic of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”. After his third film, Stoller still hasn’t mastered filmmaking, often taking too much time to reach hysterical moments. Film flow is often uneasy, but the few really engaging moments make up for several scenes and the occasional montage that goes on a little too long. Thankfully, Stoller’s primary strength is working with actors.
Segel and Blunt fill in the many lulls in a lengthy running time. Their chemistry is adorable and their arguments, heartbreaking. Segel brings with him much of the charm he made great in various roles from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” to “How I Met Your Mother”.
The more Blunt takes on comedic roles the better. With an infectious smile and the occasional dirty mouth, she is a unique fit in an R-rated comedy.
As with many such comedies, this one’s got plenty of supporting stars that often steal the show. Brie, as Violet’s sister, takes up a British accent to become the neurotic younger sibling who puts the fun back in drama queen. After her performances on “Community” and “Mad Men”, Brie is set to make waves in future films. Then there’s Pratt. He takes lovable dummy from his television performances and projects it into a very memorable role here. He doesn’t bother with anything new but tries out the role with a few additions only possible for an adult audience.
Stoller and Segel’s R-comedy work attempts sincere themes coupled with equally sincere humor. Sometimes this combination goes very wrong, leading to failed dramatic tension without enough comedy (I’m talking to you “Funny People”).
For “The Five-Year Engagement”, we have a rather equal dose that chases romantic pitfalls with a few good funny jolts. The film peaks in a scene between Violet and Suzie when they begin to argue in Elmo and Cookie Monster voices in front of Suzie’s children.
“The Five-Year Engagement” is solid date night fair. It’s far from groundbreaking, and isn’t even the funniest film this year, but it has enough juice to keep an uneven level of enjoyment going until the end. And such an end it is (just trust me on this one).
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