‘The Five-Year Engagement’ is a charming but overlong romantic comedy
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 23:04
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 it’s 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, it’s a completely different type of comedy.
Following Tom’s (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 Violet’s 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 Winger’s character was suffering from terminal cancer.
Granted, Tom’s struggles with uprooting his life to support Violet’s career opportunities aren’t 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 life’s most cherished moments — in this case, a wedding that’s consistently delayed as the pair try to figure their own lives out before engaging in marital bliss.
The sudden wedding of Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie) and Tom’s 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” can’t sustain this palpable sort of grounded nature throughout. As things quickly begin to unravel by the film’s 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 clichés it so cleverly avoided throughout.
When the strain between Tom and Violet’s relationship becomes too much for either to bear by the end, we’re given the sort of contrived on-again-off-again relationship structure that, without the film’s sweet and hilarious climax, could’ve 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 film’s 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 film’s 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 couple’s relationship. But much like Tom and Violet’s relationship, there are just too many ups and downs by the film’s end to justifiably say it succeeds.
It’s a well-made movie that avoids some of the sloppiness that dragged down parts of “Bridesmaids,” but in terms of comparison, it’s 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.