Jason Segel is the “other guy” from the Apatow stable. He doesn’t pop up in three or four movies year like Seth Rogen and James Franco, has hasn’t taken any writer for hire gigs like Rogen did in Green Hornet and he’s probably more well known for his TV day job on How I Met Your Mother than he is for movies. But he did write and star in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which is more than enough goodwill to get me to watch The Five-Year Engagement.
This is a standard rom-com in a lot of ways, but it subverts enough of the expected sameness to stand out a little from the crowd at the same time. Firstly, Tom and Violet, played by Segel and Emily Blunt are already together when the movies starts. So even though we’re not saved from a sickeningly sweet meet-cute (we get that through a flashback), it does mean there’s no torturous “getting to know you” portion to sit through.
In case the title doesn’t give the conceit away, the opening minutes do as Segel’s meticulously planned romantic proposal planes by the San Francisco Bay are disrupted every step of the way. But the major upset comes later, when Blunt accepts a job in snow covered Michigan. Segel is happy to delay wedding plans, and his career as a chef to follow Blunt and her dream.
Here’s where the one major problem I have with this movie kicks in. Blunt’s dream job is working in the psychology department at a university, conducting seemingly pointless tests. That’s harsh, there is a point. The point is to make us, the audience, laugh at the half-assed, ever-so-rediculos experiments Blunt and her colleagues come up with. Aren’t psycho-babble funny and wacky experiments funny? Yeah, they are. And The Five-Year Engagement wrings some of its best laughs out of these scenes, but I found it hard to suspend enough disbelief to accept that Segel’s character would give up his flourishing career to indulge in Blunt’s pointless flight of fancy.
But, he does, and they move to Michigan. Once there, Segel’s Tom gets the typical “fish out of water” story arc. He hates it, he meets some interesting new friends, he grudgingly accepts it, he accepts things a little too much and goes a little too deep into his new lifestyle. And because this parallels the standard rom-com arc, it all has to lead to a break up at the end of the second act. Amongst all of this are Chris Pratt as Segel’s dumb best friend and Alison Brie as Blunt’s uptight sister. Even with all this by the numbers, box ticking standard stuff, Segels’ script still found enough ways to surprise me along the way.
Segel and director Nicholas Stoller scored a big hit with Forgetting Sarah Marshall… Emily Blunt is crazy hot and a great actor… At more than two hours, it’s little long for a comedy, but there are more than enough laughs to get you through. Yet, from what I can tell, The Five-Year Engagement was really overlooked and kind of just came and went. That’s a shame, because it really is different and interesting in its approach to being a romantic comedy.
The Five-Year Engagement
Directed By – Nicholas Stoller
Written By – Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller