- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
icholas Stoller and Jason Segel are probably one of the more underrated writing teams working today. With comedic gems like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “The Muppets” already to their names, the duo’s third project together (and Stoller's third trip behind the camera) promised to be their funniest yet. Beginning where most romantic comedies usually end, you can’t fault “The Five-Year Engagement” for trying to deliver a fresh take on the genre, but although it boasts some really funny moments, like most Judd Apatow productions, the movie doesn't know when enough is enough. The ensemble cast saves it from being a total disappointment, but the film definitely isn't as good as it should have been.
Tom Solomon (Segel) has just proposed to his girlfriend Violet (Emily Blunt) one year after they first met on New Year’s Eve, but before they can get married, she’s offered a job at the University of Michigan, putting their wedding plans on hold and forcing Tom to give up his flourishing career as a chef. It’s clear from the start that Tom is unhappy in the Wolverine State, taking a job at a local sandwich shop while Violet spends time with her co-workers (including her boss, played by an enjoyably low-key Rhys Ifans), but he figures that they’ll be back in San Francisco in no time. When he finds out that Violet’s post-doctorate program has been extended by a few more years, however, Tom falls into a downward spiral, causing both parties to re-think their position in the relationship.
If there’s one thing that surprised me most about “The Five-Year Engagement,” it’s how dark the movie gets in the second act. It would be one thing if Tom was just depressed, but he becomes borderline crazy, devolving into a grizzly mountain man who hunts deer and makes mead. Though the theme of resentment plays a big part in the film, Tom’s emotional transformation is taken a little too far, to the point that you’re not even sure if you like the main characters anymore. Thankfully, Stoller surrounds his two leads with an excellent supporting cast that helps keep the mood light, particularly Chris Pratt, who steals the show as Tom’s idiotic best friend. The movie could have done with more of him and Alison Brie (as Violet's little sister, who becomes romantically involved with Pratt's character), because they're much more entertaining than both Segel and Blunt.
More than anything else, though, Stoller and Segel appear so dead set on including every single one of their ideas that it drains the movie of some of its charm. Although there are plenty of great laughs throughout (including a Muppets-inspired bit that is probably the most honest moment in the entire film), the constant shifts in tone prevent it from ever finding its groove. The movie also relies on a lot of the same, tired genre clichés despite its attempts to shake up the formula, and it drags on for so long that it practically writes its own jokes about the title. “The Five-Year Engagement" does just enough to keep audiences entertained, but with the talent involved, you'd expect better.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Fans of the typical Judd Apatow special features will love the Blu-ray release of “The Five-Year Engagement,” which includes 45 minutes of deleted scenes, another 45 minutes of extended and alternate scenes, and other usual suspects like a gag reel, Line-O-Rama, and a DVD and UltraViolet digital copy of the film. There’s also a pretty entertaining audio commentary with co-writer/director Nicholas Stoller and stars Jason Segel, Emily Blunt and Chris Pratt, but the real highlight is the fantastic making-of featurette, which offers a refreshingly transparent look at the entire production process.