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‘Five-Year Engagement’ a funny, but uneven affair

Article Published: May. 3, 2012 | Modified: May. 3, 2012
‘Five-Year Engagement’ a funny, but uneven affair

Emily Blunt and Jason Segel star in 'The Five-Year Engagement.'

“The Five-Year Engagement” is more spontaneously fun than most weddings, but without the open bar.

And like some weddings, it suffers from a dragged-out runtime and spouts of predictability. Fortunately, the Judd Apatow gang is officiating.

Odd, original humor and a superb chemistry between its two leads make up for these shortcomings, resulting in an amiable – and gleefully unconventional – romantic comedy that just falls short of this group’s previous efforts.

Crafted by the team behind the hilarious “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” – director and co-writer Nicholas Stoller, co-writer and star Jason Segel and producer Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) – “The Five-Year Engagement” is laugh-out-loud funny through its first act and then some.

It deftly balances those all-too-human irrationalities and insecurities with the group’s often inimitable brand of offhand humor, but begins to overstay its welcome with a good hour to go. Maybe there just wasn’t enough material to go around, or maybe there was simply too much, but “Five-Year Engagement” ends up suffering from poorly paced predictable drama and a slapdash ending that can’t compete with its creative beginning.

Segel (“The Muppet Movie”) and Emily Blunt (“The Adjustment Bureau”) are Tom and Violet, two lovers making a good go of it in San Francisco. Tom proposes to Violet exactly one year after their meeting, and she giddily accepts.

But that’s where it gets complicated. As the happy couple dives headfirst into wedding planning, career-minded Violet begins to worry that marriage could easily quash her professional goals. She loves Tom deeply, but isn’t prepared to abandon her professional life and aspirations. These happen to involve a two-year stint at the University of Michigan – a far cry from the warm comforts of San Francisco, where Tom works as a successful, up-and-coming sous chef at a posh restaurant.

But he’s ever willing to make sacrifices for the love of his life, quitting his job – just before learning he was in line for a promotion, no less – and making the move to Ann Arbor.

Violet flourishes in UM’s department of psychology, under the tutelage of a smarmy professor (Rhys Ifans, “Greenberg”), while Tom wastes away in the land of underemployment and “faculty husbands.” Violet’s professional success leads to a contract extension, which all but leads Tom to miserable self-resignation, and the two begin to question whether or not their engagement will ever come to fruition.

“The Five-Year Engagement” explores a variety of relationship themes, sacrifice in particular. It’s just that Stoller and company sacrifice the film’s encouraging originality for plot devices you can see a mile from down the aisle.

Fortunately, Segel and Stoller are funny people, and they manage to keep the jokes coming as the film edges toward its inevitable conclusion.

Although the Tom character doesn’t seem fully fleshed out – not literally, since, as usual, Segel finds a way to show some skin – he and Blunt, who’s delightful in this comedic turn, share a natural, fun chemistry that makes this couple seem believable.

The film’s supporting cast is also stellar, with Chris Platt (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) nearly stealing the show in several instances as Tom’s best friend, particularly with a completely out-of-nowhere – and thorough – rendition of an obscure Mexican love song.

Alison Brie (TV’s “Mad Men”) also shines (with somewhat of a bitter luster) as Violet’s sister, and a scene in which she and Blunt are forced to argue a serious matter in Elmo and Cookie Monster voices, respectively, demonstrates the filmmakers’ ability to find humor in the darndest places.

It’s all too obvious that the cast and crew are having a good time, and, just like at a wedding, it’s those moments that make this “Engagement” worthwhile.

“The Five-Year Engagement,” rated R for sexual content and language throughout, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 13-B or visit

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Emily Blunt and Jason Segel star in 'The Five-Year Engagement.'

Emily Blunt and Jason Segel star in ‘The Five-Year Engagement.’

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