The Five-Year Engagement

Cast:
Jason Segel as Tom Solomon
Emily Blunt as Violet Barnes
Chris Pratt as Alex Eilhauer
Alison Brie as Suzie Barnes-Eilhauer
Rhys Ifans as Winton Childs
Mindy Kaling as Vaneetha
Randall Park as Ming
Kevin Hart as Doug
Brian Posehn as Tarquin
Chris Parnell as Bill
Lauren Weedman as Chef Sally
Mimi Kennedy as Carol Solomon
David Paymer as Pete Solomon
Jacki Weaver as Sylvia Dickerson-Barnes
Jim Piddock as George Barnes
Dakota Johnson as Audrey
Jane Carr as Grandma Katherine
Clement von Franckenstein as Grandpa Baba
Michael Ensign as Grandpa Harold
Madge Levinson as Grandma Leonora
Gina Ragnone as Ashley

Directed by Nicholas Stoller

Story:
San Francisco chef Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) has finally proposed to his girlfriend Violet (Emily Blunt) but before they get married, she’s offered a job at the University of Michigan which puts their marriage plans on hold as well as forcing him to give up his career to support her dream job. Once there, problems arise in the relationship as Violet spends too much time with her charismatic boss (Rhys Ifans) while Tom gets deeper and deeper into a bitter funk as their wedding plans keep being delayed.

Analysis:
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” director Nick Stoller’s third movie may struggle through some of the same problems faced by his producer Judd Apatow’s own third movie “Funny People” in that there are way too many ideas and tonal shifts creating a long movie that feels disjointed. That’s not to say “Five-Year Engagement” is bad, though; in fact, the tried-and-true comedy team of Stoller and actor Jason Segel prove themselves to be quite capable at creating something more accessible to mainstream audiences with jokes that should cross a fairly wide range of ages and locales.

We meet Segel’s Tom Solomon as he’s awkwardly proposing to his longtime girlfriend Violent (Emily Blunt), and they certainly seem like such a perfect couple, so what could possibly go wrong? If you’re going into the movie knowing nothing, you may be surprised how long it takes to set-up the general premise of this wedding that keeps being put on hold for different reasons as a wedge gets driven into Tom and Violet’s relationship once they move to Michigan and Violet gets deeper into her work developing an experiment involving stale donuts, while being overtly hit on by her charismatic supervisor, played by Rhys Ifans. Meanwhile, Tom lets his beard grow and takes up hunting with odd new local friends, played by Chris Parnell and Brian Posehn (a highly underrated comic who is finally used in a movie to show off his full potential).

Lots of couples may be able to relate to trying to manage two careers and the sacrifices we make for the one we love, although the marketing is a bit of a fake-out in making people think that this is another “Bridesmaids” and is about the disastrous lead-up to a wedding which isn’t really the case at all.

Segel and Blunt work well together, although you may wonder if Segel made the movie simply to get any excuse he can to make out with the comely British actress. Good on him if that’s the case, because it worked! Segel takes on more of a straight-man role for this one, allowing Chris Pratt to steal many scenes as Tom’s best friend Alex who has sex with Violet’s sister (Pratt’s NBC-mate Alison Brie from “Community”) at their engagement party and finds himself married with a kid on the way. There’s actually quite a lot of laughs to be found in the supporting cast including Violet’s fellow psych grad students, played by Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling and lesser-known Randall Park.

For the amount of characters and ideas and subplots that are squeezed into two hours, Stoller does a fine job finessing it into a movie that offers just as much entertainment value as “Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek,” even if it’s lacking some of the quirky imperfections of those movies. It also ends up being somewhat more predictable since the simpler story only leaves a few places where things can go. This includes the point when it enters darker and more dramatic territory as Violet and Tom’s relationship starts to crumble. Because the laughs haven’t been nearly as consistent up until that point, it might take people out of the movie entirely.

One minor quibble is that for a story taking place over five years, it’s surprising how little the characters seem to change over the course of the movie, other than a funky backwoods beard Segel grows for the middle act. One would think the passage of time would be hugely important, but other than having Violet’s sister and Alex show up from time to time with their kids, all the characters remain exactly the same, This is one place where Stoller could have learned something from Drake Doremus’ “Like Crazy” which makes you feel the passage of time without dragging.

Some may wonder why the movie keeps returning to Violet’s donut experiment, which isn’t exactly great material for a thesis or for humor, but be patient, because it does play a large part in the pay-off, and the film’s ending is surprisingly satisfying even if it ends in a rather obvious place.

The Bottom Line:
While “The Five-Year Engagement” sometimes get bogged down in a surplus of ideas, not all of them that work well together, it’s certainly one of the more palatable relationship comedies due to the notable chemistry between Segel and Blunt and a supporting cast who are constantly stealing scenes.

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