Full disclosure: I'm a huge fan of Jason Segel and his frequent collaborator Nicholas Stoller. I'm also getting married next year, and so I was particularly inclined to be tickled by The Five-Year Engagement. Two artists I admire tackling subject matter that is particularly relevant to my life at this exact moment? Yep, I was half in the bag for this one before I ever pushed play. And I haven't even broached the presence of the dazzling and charming Emily Blunt.
The title of The Five-Year Engagement tells you most of what you need to know about the plot. San Franciscans Tom Solomon (Segel) and Violet Barnes (Blunt) are madly in love, and as the film opens Tom is sweating through the final few moments before he proposes to Violet. After a few amusing hiccups, he pops the question and she says yes. To be clear, their path down the aisle is anything but straight, in case you haven't picked up on the wink-wink titular hint.
The first obstacle to their marriage is the unplanned pregnancy and shotgun wedding of Violet's sister Suzie (Alison Brie) to Tom's best friend Alex (Chris Pratt). That's a mere precursor to the big one, though: Violet, working toward her doctorate in psychology, gets accepted to a program at the University of Michigan. Tom, a talented chef, agrees to move halfway across the country to be with her as she finishes up her schooling, learning only after he agrees to move with her that he was in line to take over as head chef at a new restaurant.
With few prospects in their new home of Ann Arbor, Mich., Tom is thrust into a downward spiral of resentment and depression. Of course, it's the mostly funny kind of resentment and depression. There are mutton chops and crossbows and ugly sweaters knit by Chris Parnell.
I suppose the big and totally valid criticism that you can level at The Five-Year Engagement is that it takes far too long just to get to Segel's mutton chops and from there it devolves, disappointingly, into a fairly standard rom com. Me, though? I was a bit too enthralled by Segel, Blunt and the stellar supporting players lined up around them (particularly Pratt, Brie and Brian Posehn) to be all that bothered by the predictable Apatow-ian length and the even more predictable conclusion.
Stoller and Segel, who also co-wrote The Muppets and Forgetting Sarah Marshall along with The Five-Year Engagement, have a peculiar talent for creating films that are both sweater-in-winter warm and chortle-inducing. It strikes me as I write this review that there really haven't been that many movies like this one lately. It's been a rough couple of years for comedies in general, but even beyond that so few of them hit that sort-of-rom-com, sort-of-gross-out-buddy-flick sweet spot that you get here. There are plenty of absurdist Will Ferrell comedies, at-times oppressively dark and hard-edged Hangovers and Bachelorettes and overly saccharine romantic comedies in the cinematic world. But there are not enough like The Five-Year Engagement and Forgetting Sarah Marshall and, my personal favorite (though not a Stoller-Segel collaboration), I Love You, Man.
The Five-Year Engagement has its flaws, yes. It could have lost 20 or 30 minutes somewhere and been a stronger film. (Really, no comedy should be much longer than 100 minutes as a general rule.) But its positive qualities far outweighed the blemishes. That's more than welcome these days.