The Five-Year Engagement

Eating a stale donut is barely even moderately satisfying. While it gives you a slight sugary satiated feeling, the taste is less rich than it’s full potential. Comedy producer extraordinaire Judd Apatow takes a cue from Emily Blunt’s academic psychologist character, who feeds her test subjects old donuts in an experiment on self-control, by delivering the film equivalent of a stale pastry with The Five-Year Engagement. Starring Blunt (who can be seen in the still playing Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) as the perpetually blushing bride-to-be and Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Muppets) as the same lovable dope he is quickly being typecast into; the duo dutifully carries the flick as the amiable engaged couple that is easy to root for.

Segel is an on-the-rise sous chef in sunny San Francisco while Blunt’s career is at a standstill, waiting on letters from colleges for job positions. Receiving an offer at the University of Michigan, without much of a fight, Segel agrees to move to the four-season climate of the Great Lakes state, putting an interminable delay to their wedding. Unfortunately, it turns out that nobody in Michigan enjoys fine dining, Segel only finding employment making sandwiches at a local deli. As Blunt and Segel’s professional careers respectively rise and dive, trite conflicts obviously arise. By the halfway mark you are either wanting them to break up or watch them shotgun it in Vegas.

Directed and co-written by Nicholas Stoller (Sarah Marshall), The Five-Year Engagement has more brains than your typical romantic comedy. Stoller and Segel’s script has some novel bits and finds a nice truth to the romance that makes the film less shallow than say Apatow’s last comedy, Wanderlust. While nothing rivals Bridesmaids bridal shop scene (The Five-Year Engagement is being released on the same weekend as last year’s Wiig-laugher with an astoundingly similar ad campaign), Five-Year has some hilarious sequences of irreverent laughs. Highlights involve an awkward engagement party speech (again, something Bridesmaids did, and better), pillow-talk therapy exchanges between Blunt and Segel, and some other laugh-out-loud moments already spoiled in the trailer.

While there are some fits of laughter to be had, the string that holds the material together is a real drag. The loosey-goosey nature works in Segel-Stoller’s Sarah Marshall, because it chronicles a wet-n-wild tropical vacation with a rock star. Engagement is about a settled couple pleasantly grounded in normalcy. For tracking five years of a relationship, more consistency is needed.

For how quickly Judd Apatow produces films, he has an impressive nearly bomb-free list of flicks to his name. But, he does have a good amount of mediocre comedies on his filmography (comehdy?). All of his average films that are close to greatness suffer the same problem as Engagement – he doesn’t know what scenes to edit shorter or cut entirely. While comedy follows the rule of threes, not everything needs to be repeated thrice (and boy, oh boy do we get a lot of scene repetition here).

Thankfully, like in February’s equally funny Wanderlust (which you should rent on DVD instead of paying full-ticket price for this), the better-material-deserving cast revives scenes that would be declared DOA in less capable hands and keep the film chugging along.

Blunt and Segel are naturally likable, but do not have any cackling chemistry. These two aren’t lovers, but best friends. Thankfully, they are largely required to hit comedic beats, which are played to perfection. The members of the supporting cast are the true stars.

A who’s who of “who’s that, again?” everyone has a familiar face, although you will need to take a quick look at your phone afterwards to remember the name. Community’s Alison Brie dons an impressive British accent as Blunt’s sister (the two share a hilarious Sesame Street inspired argument that helps liven up the end of the flick) and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) steals scenes as Segel’s Best Man(-child). The Office’s Mindy Kaling, another NBC sitcom player in the cast, and stand-up star Kevin Hart play Blunt’s colleagues who have plenty of zingers and one-liners, although they begin to overstay their welcome thanks to Stoller’s editing issues. I can add more names, but then this review, like the movie, will start feeling like it lasts for five-years as well.

The Five-Year Engagement is scattered with some sparks of brilliance and outbursts of laughter, but unfortunately everything in between makes the film sink. The cast as a whole helps patch the holes, but with not very keen editing, there is only so much they can do.

Back to my stale donut analogy (again – a scene played three (or maybe it was four) times in the film), The Five-Year Engagement has a sugary sweet cast that sticks around for a bit over two hours, but the script is past it’s sell by date. Although you might feel good while watching the flick, by the time it finally wraps up, you will probably feel guilty about wasting all of those carbs (or in this case minutes) on something so empty.

5/10

Review By Ryan Mazie

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One thought on “The Five-Year Engagement

  1. The film is definitely a little too long for it’s own good, but what it does work with is showing an impressive cast that is able to bring laughs out of this material, no matter what the tone is. Good review Ryan.

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