Monday, April 30, 2012


Rated: R
STARS: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Rhys Ifans, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Stoller
PRODUCER; Judd Apatow
GENRE: Romantic Comedy

Romantic comedies typically are about two people on the verge of hooking up, while fate and one thing or another prevents them from becoming fully committed until the end. The Five Year Engagement centers primarily on the period after our couple has said "I will," as a precursor to saying "I do." So what we get instead of that romantic tension is the letdown of things beginning to unravel when their careers and other factors are pulling them in different directions. Kind of an anti-romcom in romcom's clothing.

What was hard for me to fathom from the outset was why--other than co-writer and co-star Jason Segel inserting himself opposite Emily Blunt again--these two are together. Segel is chef Tom Solomon, and his betrothed is Emily Blunt's Violet Barnes, a grad student in psychology. Tom is kind of a meatball--not quite on the scale of Kevin James in the TV sitcom King of Queens--but close, because he too is paired with a woman who is way out of his league.(The exquisite Emily Blunt is near the top of the food chain not only in looks, but certain intangibles that you can't quite put your finger (or fingers) on, but would like to!) So I don't buy them as a couple, appearance wise, and I didn't feel that on-screen chemistry either, which can often transcend the surface factors and render them believable.

Tom leaves a promising gig as a chef in San Francisco to follow violet to the frozen tundra of the University of Michigan, where she is in line for a post doctoral position in the psychology department. (Where they think they can draw conclusions about the emotional makeup of test subjects by whether they will or won't eat semi-stale donuts).It's only supposed to be for two years, so they will delay their nuptials a while. But as the film title has already revealed, that time frame will stretch on and on.

The only work in his field Tom can find in Michigan is making sandwiches at a local deli. You can sublimate your own dreams and self-esteem for the benefit of a mate for only so long before some resentment is bound to surface. And when Violet starts spending too much time with her advisor, the pontifical Winton Childs, (Rhys Ifans) and he makes a move on her, that's a recipe for disaster. 

Tom and Violet begin to second guess their commitment to each other, and that would have been a good place to end The Five Year Engagement, because these two weren't compatible to begin with. But Judd Apatow productions (Bridesmaids, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, et al.) have developed a reputation for having excess fat that maybe should have been trimmed--and true to form, The Five Year Engagement stretches into a seven course meal that makes us feel bloated at the end, as it slouches toward the conclusion we've already anticipated.

Not to imply that there aren't some laughs here. But the humor is so offbeat--peppered with all the obligatory F-bombs, whether they flow naturally from the material or not--that sometimes the audience laughed, and other times showed no reaction to what was obviously "supposed" to be funny.

Chris Pratt, as Tom's best friend, Alex, and Alison Brie, as his wife, (and Violet's sister) each give good turns here. They are both zany, and seem like two people who are better suited to being together.

But I think what I liked the best was Emily Blunt doing her impression of The Cookie Monster.

Grade:  C +