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The Five-Year Engagement | The Clapper Bored

The Five-Year Engagement

Words by Jeff Galasso.

After their success with The Muppets Nicolas Stoller and Jason Segel return to their old profane tricks in illustrating the struggles faced by two love-struck San Franciscans in The Five-Year Engagement.  This latest Stoller/Segel collaboration sees the latter teamed up with Emily Blunt as an engaged couple waiting for the pieces to fall into place over the course of five years.  There are a fair few laughs to be had, but by the time the film winds down, everyone is feeling those years, the audience included.

The pairing of Segel and Blunt is strong casting decision as the actors have a genuine likability to them, making it easy to become invested in their romance.  As the marriage plans are repeatedly delayed and the couple migrate from the sunny surrounds of the Bay Area to the chilly bleakness of Michigan, there’s a lot of amusement to be found in the deterioration of Segel’s formerly successful chef, Tom.  Driven mad by the hopelessness of his new environment, Tom is soon resorts to hunting whilst sporting disturbing facial hair and hideously hilarious knit-wear.  On the flipside, Blunt’s Violet is distracted by her career advancements under the watchful eye of her new boss, Professor Winton Childs (the ever smarmy Rhys Ifans, not quite yet mutating from academic to reptile).  Amid the exaggeration of the situation, The Five-Year Engagement offers a serious look at the kinds of issues that can drive a wedge between those in otherwise happy relationships.

There is actually a solid story that plays out here that would be a strong basis for a romantic drama in a parallel universe.  It is the hit and miss humour that makes The Five-Year Engagement feel too much like a chore to watch.  Even when a joke lands, Stoller struggles to end a scene on a high note, opting instead to draw the gag out long after the laughter has ceased.  In other instances, there are scenes that should never have seen the light of day to begin with.  A good 20-30 minutes could be axed from The Five-Year Engagement without sacrificing a decent chuckle or character development.

Segel offers up some first-rate physical comedy, including a chase sequence that is superbly absurd.  Blunt is better when she plays it straight, though she has a few humorous bright spots along the way. Bringing quality support is Chris Pratt as Tom’s best mate, Alison Brie channelling Inspector Spacetime’s Geneva to pass herself off as Violet’s sister Suzie and Chris Parnell, as one of Michigan’s victims of circumstance.  Once The Five-Year Engagement finally reaches the homestretch, it does so in impressive fashion by putting a fresh face on a tired rom-com trope. It may come 20 minutes too late, but it proves to be a satisfying finish.

It may be too bloated but there’s a fair amount of enjoyment to be had during The Five-Year Engagement.  With a strong cast and well-developed plot, it’s unfortunate that the fat hasn’t been trimmed off.  Instead of being an exceptional romantic comedy, it’s merely a decent flick that may lose viewers’ attention before reaching its strong close.  It may be crude at times and not particularly funny at others, but holding true to past Segel and Stoller productions, The Five-Year Engagement has heart and that certainly counts for something.

Title: The Five-Year Engagement
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Jacki Weaver, Alison Brie
Certificate: 15
Running Time: 2 hours and 4 minutes (holy shit)

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