Only a year ago, producer Judd Apatow and fellow comedian Kristen Wiig turned a remarkable ensemble cast and crew into the hilarious Bridesmaids, setting a standard for many of the raunchy comedies to come afterward.
So its no surprise that the recent wedding-themed The Five-Year Engagement has drawn comparisons, especially after a marketing campaign that boasts that it comes from the producer of Bridesmaids. Yet The Five-Year Engagement is more than a pale imitation of its predecessor in fact, its a completely different type of comedy.
Following Toms (Jason Segel) romantic proposal to Violet (Emily Blunt) against the firework-strewn skies of San Francisco, the pair must come to terms with their forthcoming wedding as their lives and responsibilities begin to clutter the idealistic vision of their future marriage. After a move to Michigan to help further Violets career upsets their wedding plans, Tom also begins to lose his grasp on what it is that made the relationship work to begin with.
The film sees Segel once again teaming up with Forgetting Sarah Marshall director and co-writer Nicholas Stoller, with the pair crafting a comedic film almost as surprisingly sweet and lightly poignant as that tale of a directionless man trying to cope after a catastrophic breakup.
The pair has crafted something that hews closer to films by writer-director James L. Brooks, a talent whose work on Broadcast News and Terms of Endearment was often able to blend comedic elements and serious situations. In Terms, audiences were able to laugh all while actress Debra Wingers character was suffering from terminal cancer.
Granted, Toms struggles with uprooting his life to support Violets career opportunities arent quite as serious-minded. The film provides a more well-rounded approach to the growing strain between Tom and Violet.
Much like Terms or Broadcast News, the humor derives mainly from situations rather than gags, though the film certainly has its share of those ranging from unfortunate use of kitchen knives to sporadic scenes of Tom hunting deer.
Much like Broadcast News, The Five-Year Engagement is a lot about the stresses of some of lifes most cherished moments in this case, a wedding thats consistently delayed as the pair try to figure their own lives out before engaging in marital bliss.
The sudden wedding of Violets sister Suzie (Alison Brie) and Toms eventual disenchantment with his life offer real-world scenarios and situations that would generally be glossed over in your typical romantic comedy.
Yet The Five-Year Engagement cant sustain this palpable sort of grounded nature throughout. As things quickly begin to unravel by the films final act, the flaws of The Five-Year Engagement begin to show.
By the end, some may feel as if The Five-Year Engagement is playing out in real-time, as the final act of the film feels like a slapdash attempt to wrap things up conveniently for the audience, leading the film to finally step directly into the type of romantic comedy clichs it so cleverly avoided throughout.
When the strain between Tom and Violets relationship becomes too much for either to bear by the end, were given the sort of contrived on-again-off-again relationship structure that, without the films sweet and hilarious climax, couldve derailed The Five-Year Engagement significantly.
As with Bridesmaids and other Apatow productions, perhaps ambitions are a little too lofty when pacing a comedy like this at a lengthy two-hour running time. By the films conclusion, it feels as if Stoller and Segel were grasping at straws to send the audience off with a warm and fuzzy feeling rather than justifying everything that happens throughout the films running time.
In some ways, it does feel as if every relationship struggle Tom and Violet faced earlier were conjured up for no real reason at all, as the pair are hurled headlong into what could be a happy ending.
Many will compare The Five-Year Engagement to Bridesmaids, mostly because of shared creative forces and a similar wedding theme, but again, they are two very different films.
While Bridesmaids was content to be a gross-out comedy with a big heart to general success, The Five-Year Engagement attempts to be a hilarious but poignant look at this couples relationship. But much like Tom and Violets relationship, there are just too many ups and downs by the films end to justifiably say it succeeds.
Its a well-made movie that avoids some of the sloppiness that dragged down parts of Bridesmaids, but in terms of comparison, its not as focused or fulfilling as that film.
Viewed on its own merits, The Five-Year Engagement is a sweet, if not slight, romantic comedy that admirably strives to be something more.