Synopsis: One year after meeting, Tom proposes to his girlfriend, Violet, but unexpected events keep tripping them up as they look to walk down the aisle together.
Stars: Jason Segal, Emily Blunt, Alison Brie, Chris Pratt, Jacki Weaver
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Running Length: 124 minutes
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: Last May, Universal Studios struck gold with Bridesmaids. A witty and versatile comedy, it broke box office records and landed on many award shortlists by the end of the year. It’s clear from the marketing of The Five-Year Engagement that Universal was hoping they’d be headed to the bank again but alas, this engagement will not have the longevity the brides had. Now that’s not to say this isn’t a perfectly decent movie…it is. It just comes up short in several categories that are crucial to a successful comedy.
Cast wise, Blunt and Segal as Violet and Tom are well matched actors as the couple the film centers around. It would have been easy to make the movie about how MISmatched as a couple they are but that angle has been done to death with barely a laugh left to milk. Instead, Blunt and Segal create (mostly) real people that find themselves at several crossroads during the span of their half decade of engaged not-so-bliss.
Segal co-wrote the script with director Stoller after previously collaborating on Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Muppets. I find that the Segal/Stoller team has a nice knack for dialogue but a poor utilization of an editors ear. The film is simply too full of people, ideas, and half-jokes — so in the end nothing feels like it received the attention it probably deserved. Numerous characters are introduced to never be heard/seen from again unless they are needed to move the story along. Weaver, playing Violet’s snippy mother, seems to be nearly an afterthought which leads me to believe much of her work was left on the cutting room floor.
Aside from the two leads there are the “B” couple…Tom’s best friend (Pratt) and Violet’s sister (scene-stealing Brie) who just so happen to have a shotgun wedding due to a dalliance at Tom and Violet’s engagement party. It’s clear that this B couple has been created to give Tom and Violet a glimpse into married life and as an excuse for Pratt to perfect his Jack Black-wish oaf schtick and for Brie to nail her UK accent. Both actors do good for the movie as a whole…especially Brie who has a great scene with Blunt involving the voices of Cookie Monster and Elmo.
Blunt continues to be a fascinating actress to watch. She has a great ability to make clunky dialogue work and far-fetched situations seem like everyday life. She works hard to smooth out the scenarios Segal and Stoller have created for her and usually comes out on top. Of course, since this is a Judd Apatow production that means that the comedy has a price…severed toes/fingers, an arrow to the thigh, and dead deer figure prominently (as well as the worst and most wasteful use of Sriracha sauce ever). Plus Segel takes another opportunity to be nude/semi-nude at multiple points throughout the film though thankfully not as graphically as in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
The problem with these extra full movies is that they overstay their welcome halfway through. The film is so heavy in the middle that there’s no real way it can fully recover by the end credits. When you feel the movie should be ending you realize that there’s still 40 minutes left – and it doesn’t help that the five-year time frame plays by its own rules when communicating a passage of time. Time just moves whenever the actors feel like it – I would have liked to see the film be more episodic and broken up by years, seasons, moon cycles, etc.
Even if the movie does huff and puff toward its finish line when that line comes it’s with an unexpected bit of whimsy that I would have most definitely liked to participate in. It’s a solid but unspectacular effort from people that have been all-around better in previous work. Not a total miss but one that is easily passed on until the second run theaters or DVD/Blu-Ray.