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Movie Review: The Five-Year Engagement

April 27, 2012

Last year we were bombarded by a slew of raunchy rated-R comedies (Hangover 2, Horrible Bosses, Bad Teacher, Bridesmaids, The Change-Up, etc.) that tried to one-up one another with gross-out gags and sexual escapades. After a while, they all started to blend together. Different movie, same old shtick.  I expected more of the same with The Five-Year engagement, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie charming, sweet, and touching.

Jason Segel (who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Nicholas Stoller) stars as Tom, an affable up and coming sous-chef in San Francisco. He’s madly in love with his girlfriend Violet (Emily Blunt), who has just accepted his marriage proposal. They are happy and content until life starts throwing them a few curve balls. Violet has aspirations of pursuing a psychology career at Berkeley, but she doesn’t get into the program. Instead, she receives an offer from the University of Michigan. Tom is wonderfully supportive. After all, he can find a job in a restaurant anywhere. So the two leave sunny California for the cold and snow of Michigan, and that’s where the problems begin.

Tom feels emasculated when the only work he can find is making sandwiches at a deli, far beneath his culinary expertise.  He found out just before he left California that he was to be named head chef at a hot new venue, and now he’s slinging sauerkraut. He sinks into full-on depression, and grows the requisite beard that all men who are depressed in movies seem to grow. Trust me, it’s ugly. While Tom frumps out, Violet flourishes in the psychology department, and spends increasing time with her colleagues. The head of the department (played by Rhys Ifans) seems to have taken a special interest in Violet, and goads her into talking about her problems with Tom every chance he gets. It doesn’t take a genius to see where all of this is heading.

The film is centered on Violet and Tom, but the cast of quirky characters really makes the film worthwhile.  Allison Brie (Community, Mad Men) plays Violet’s sister, and she’s fantastic. Chris Pratt is Tom’s best friend, and the best way to describe him is “Stifler lite”.  Chris Parnell (Anchorman, 30 Rock) is the husband of one of the faculty members. He’s an avid hunter and knitter. Brian Posehn is Tom’s boss at the sandwich shop, and he is obsessed with pickled products. All these secondary characters help move things along for the two-hour running time.

Segel and Blunt have good chemistry, and are believable as a couple. We all know Segel can be funny, but Blunt was a surprise. She usually seems stern in movies, but she pulls off the role with ease. What sets the movie apart from most romantic comedies is it’s honest look at what real couples go through. Sure their predicaments are embellished, but their issues are realistic.  Lots of couples will find the movie relatable, and I think this is one of the best date movies that has come around in the last few years.  There’s enough comedy to please the men, and enough heart to keep the women around. It’s a tricky balancing act, but The Five-Year Engagement manages to nail it.

Rating 3.5/5


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