It’s a good thing Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are so darned adorable. I mean, seriously was there ever a couple more tailor made for the romantic comedy genre? I almost want to see them declare their love in the rain or participate in a cutesy dance/karaoke scene. Unfortunately, their new movie The Five-Year Engagement contains none of those things but it’s still a far cry from advancing the romantic comedy genre out of its currently dismal state.
Segel plays Tom and we meet him just as he’s nervously gearing up to propose to his girlfriend of a year, Violet (Blunt). Despite the fact that Violet accidentally ruins the surprise romantic, pop-the-question dinner that Tom has planned, they go ahead with the proposal anyway and we get a window into their obviously sweet respect for one another. They’re a lovely couple and it’s clear they have a bright future ahead of them. Or do they?
As time passes, fate seems to conspire against getting Tom and Violet to the altar in a timely fashion. First, Violet’s sister Suzie (the truly awesome Alison Brie from Mad Men and Community) hooks up with Tom’s best friend Alex (Chris Pratt, pretty much playing his character from Parks and Recreation) at the engagement party and all of a sudden there’s a baby and a wedding to steal Tom and Violet’s thunder. Then, Violet gets offered her dream job at the University of Michigan, which is far away from their current home in San Francisco and Tom’s current dream job as head chef at a high profile restaurant.
Tom, being a proudly progressive dude, agrees to move to Michigan and while Violet quickly flourishes in her new environment, Tom flounders and sinks into a depression that has him growing unattractive facial hair, taking up hunting and wearing a bunny suit around the house. Not surprisingly, things get tense, the wedding date keeps getting put off and soon Tom and Violet are questioning whether they’re meant for one another or not.
The Five-Year Engagement clocks in at just over two hours and there are a ton of laughs to be had, mostly thanks to Segel’s writerly tendency towards populating his films with absurdly quirky supporting characters (in this case there are some great sight gags courtesy of a new friend of Tom’s [Chris Parnell] who likes to knit ungainly and strangely decorated sweaters – I covet the Motley Crue sweater that Brian Posehn wears).
But as with every other film that Judd Apatow attaches his name to (in this case he’s a producer), the film runs about 20 minutes longer than it needs to and somewhere around the second act, Tom and Violet’s story seems to take a backseat to the posturing of the truckload of comedians and their comedy bits that everyone in the editing room clearly liked too much to leave for the DVD special features.
Writer/director Nicholas Stoller and Segel have written and shot a movie that feels far more shapeless than 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall and a little less genuine than last year’s The Muppets, but there’s still a whimsical charm and innate intelligence to The Five-Year Engagement that keeps you hanging on even when the film begins to meander.
As it stands though, one has to wonder how great this film would have been had Apatow et al had opted to hire a merciless editor who knew when to say, “c’mon guys, enough is enough.”