“The Five-Year Engagement” is not your typical romantic comedy. It has conflict built right into the title, instead of using a Nancy Meyers-esque turn of phrase. The writers behind “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, have reteamed to reflect on what comes after popping the questions, and Segel and Emily Blunt lead a hilarious cast that includes appropriately ridiculous turns from Chris Pratt of “Parks and Recreation” and Alison Brie of “Community” and “Mad Men” fame.
Despite a bloated running time, “The Five-Year Engagement” packs so many laughs and so much heart that even its biggest problems are easy to overlook.
Here are our five reasons to see “The Five-Year Engagement.”
During the first few minutes of the film, we see through flash-back how Tom and Violet first met. It perfectly sets up the film and has you rooting for this couple, who you know will go through hell, from the very first beat. Even as the film runs longer than it needs to, a quick glimpse back to that cute first meeting, and it’s easy to forget you were fidgeting in your seat a few minutes ago. “The Five-Year Engagement” works perfectly well, despite its flaws, because of how genuinely likeable the characters are, a quality that lesser romantic comedies can bypass completely.
A lot of the credit for Tom and Violet’s likeability belongs to the stars, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. Segel has a quality that automatically puts the audience on his side. Director Nicholas Stoller attributed it to his “sad eyes,” but it’s also Segel’s self-deprecating nature and how he usually portrays characters who are nice, which is a rarer quality in movies than you might think. Blunt has a real breakthrough here, since many of her turns have cast her as cold. In this film, she displays warmth and humor that goes beyond fart jokes and pratfalls.
Tom and Violet’s relationship takes on a different course than your average romantic comedy. The height of the engagement comes in its infancy, and everything just gets worse from there, like arrow in the leg, bad. Granted that isn’t the most realistic portrayal of a relationship gone south, “The Five-Year Engagement” is at times painfully observant and even the most ridiculous joke has its roots in a harsh reality.
Just when you’ve started to think that the whole affair has gone on for too long, the final few scenes of the film rescue it. The sequence handles the demands of a romantic comedy in a way that is refreshing and one that feels true to the spirit of the movie and never forced. It may even have you tearing up.
And that’s because, if nothing else, “The Five-Year Engagement” has real heart. Stoller and Segel have written a worthy heir to their first collaboration, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and a romantic comedy that refuses to fall prey to the usual failings of the genre. Segel and Blunt bring to life two people we’re happy to spend two hours with, characters that have us laughing even if we’re a little freaked out by resemblances to our own lives. At its best, “The Five-Year Engagement” is a comedy full of great belly laughs that begs the question, “Why aren’t all romantic comedies this good?”
What are you going to see “The Five-Year Engagement” this weekend? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!