Sometimes just knowing a particular creative team is behind a film can be enough to get excited about. In the late 2000s, the name Judd Apatow was everywhere. While the last time we saw his name predominantly above a title was last year’s hilarious blockbuster Bridesmaids, even Wanderlust lived up to the expectations endowed by Apatow Productions.
Jason Segel is coming off of a high all his own. Along with his partner in crime, Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Muppets), I’d say the two seem to be on a roll together. And there’s no stopping them this weekend with the release of their latest venture, The Five-Year Engagement.
Tom (Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) met at a “Create Your Own Superhero”-themed New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco as Super Bunny and Princess Diana exactly one year ago. Now, the time has come for Tom to ask Violet to marry him. With a pit stop at the restaurant, where he works as a sous-chef, his planned proposal introduces us to his best friend Alex (Chris Pratt) and Chef Sally (Lauren Weedman). Violet says yes, and now the two are living in a seemingly blissful montage including, but not limited to, Tom’s eggs benedict au naturel.
As excited as everyone is for the wedding, Violet’s mother Sylvia (Jacki Weaver), and her father George (Jim Piddock), are now divorced and Sylvia has a thing or two to say about the institution of marriage. On the other side of things, Alex and Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie) are so excited for the two of them that they hook up at the engagement party. Suzie winds up getting pregnant and now those two are married with the most gorgeous wedding Tom and Violet could never live up to.
Eventually, Violet receives her postdoctoral admissions letter from Michigan State University in social psychology, although she wanted to get into Berkley so they could stay in California. Tom decides to throw caution to the wind and suggests they put off the wedding while Violet invests in her future for two years, uprooting them from California to snow-covered Michigan. Of course this means Tom has to give up his career instead landing Alex Tom’s dream job as head chef at Sally’s new restaurant.
In Michigan, Tom is miserable, working at a sandwich shop alongside Tarquin (Brian Posehn). He also gains a new set of friends, including Tarquin and stay-at-home-dad Bill (Chris Parnell) who tries to show Tom that he doesn’t have to be a fish out of water, introducing him to hunting and his own brand of horrific homemade sweaters. Meanwhile, Violet is off at school with her new chums, Vaneetha (Mindy Kaling), Doug (Kevin Hart), Ming (Randall Park), and Professor Winton (Rhys Ifans). Will Tom finally adjust to the madness of his new life in Michigan making honey mead and skinning animals in the shed? Will Violet get to finish her doctorate in time for them to finally tie the knot before another grandparent bites the dust? Will Winton make a move on Violet setting yet another rift in the relationship?
The ups and downs of Tom and Violet will come as no surprise. While Segel and Stoller ensure we know how everything will work out in the end, they also do their damnedest to make sure that it’s the getting there that’s the fun part. There are some mid-film pacing issues but what else would you expect from an Apatow Production. They always run on the long side but here there are more than the usual amount of scenes that feel like they should be part of the extended home video release.
The only minor quibble is that the film spends too much time dabbling in Like Crazy territory making the film feel even more padded. Segel and Stoller also seem to have the same issues with breaking characters up, which they also ran into with Forgetting Sarah Marshall. They are fantastic at getting characters together, but can’t figure out realistic ways to break them up. The supporting cast is chock full of scene stealers and they almost completely steal the movie from Segel and Blunt. But the comedy prevails and they do manage to throw in some new hilarious twists on clichéd situations making The Five-Year Engagement worth the 124 minutes.
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