Quirky ‘Five-Year Engagement’ worth walk down theater aisle
BY RICHARD ROEPER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST April 26, 2012 4:32PM
‘The Five-Year Engagement’ ★★★
Tom Jason Segel
Violet Emily Blunt
Alex Chris Pratt
Suzie Alison Brie
Winton Rhys Ifans
Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Nicholas Stoller. Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. Running time: 124 minutes. Rated R (for sexual content, and language throughout). Opening Friday at local theaters.
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:04AM
A more accurate title for “The Five-Year Engagement” would have been “I Got a Job in Michigan.” Uneven and a little too predictable but also consistently smart, sharp and sweet, this movie is more about the tension created when a couple uproots so one of them can realize a career dream than it is about fear of commitment.
Affable lug Jason Segel (who co-wrote the screenplay with director Nicholas Stoller, with whom he also teamed on “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) once again plays a borderline doughy nice guy with a sly sense of humor who’s thrilled to be with a woman casual observers might consider out of his league. Tom (Segel) is madly in love with Violet (Emily Blunt), and why not? She’s Emily Blunt. There are few actresses in Ms. Blunt’s peer group that can match her camera-friendly loveliness, her wickedly funny line deliveries and her natural screen presence.
Exactly one year after a somewhat forced Meet Cute at a “Create Your Own Superhero” New Year’s Eve party, Tom proposes to Violet at the trendy San Francisco restaurant where he’s a rising star sous-chef. The circumstances surrounding the proposal are equal parts comedic and romantic, and in some films, this would be the end of our story. But this is just the launching point for a half-decade of planning for the wedding and postponing the wedding, planning for the wedding again and postponing the wedding again — mostly because Violet’s academic pursuits have necessitated a move to the University of Michigan, which Tom regards as hell.
A word or two about this traumatic (for Tom) move. According to “The Five-Year Engagement,” Ann Arbor, Mich., is the most terrible place on Earth, while San Francisco is a sophisticate’s nirvana. Granted, for a budding culinary talent such as Tom, the opportunities wouldn’t be nearly as abundant, but would he really be transformed into a depressed galoot who works in a sandwich shop, grows a Civil War re-enactor’s facial hair and becomes obsessed with killing deer? You know, it’s not a bad place. I hear they even have a football team, though you wouldn’t know it by this movie.
As Tom grows ever more resentful of Violet’s success (and her friendship with the obligatory pompous professor/faculty adviser, hilariously played by Rhys Ifans), their grandparents start dying off one by one, without ever having witnessed the wedding that keeps getting put on hold. Even Violet’s anti-marriage, anti-child sister (a brilliant Alison Brie) has found wedded bliss and has started a family with Tom’s best friend, Alex (Chris Pratt, doing a terrific variation on the irresistible moron character he plays to perfection on “Parks and Recreation”). As is the case with virtually every romantic comedy, there’s a cast of supporting players whose primary reason for being is to observe and quip wise about the main romance. (The standout is Mindy Kaling, who deserves her own starring vehicle.)
At times, “The Five-Year Engagement” veers into absurdist shock comedy, with scenes involving frostbite, smearing faces with potato salad as foreplay, and a psych experiment incorporating chicken feathers, fake blood and a gun. Some of it is stupidly funny, some of it just stupid. We also get some moments of brave, pitch-perfect quirkiness, e.g., Pratt’s Alex singing “Cucurucucu Paloma” to his bride in a way that’s ridiculous and touching. And a scene in which Tom’s parents (David Paymer and Mimi Kennedy) reveal a number of secrets about their true selves while urging him to get his stuff together is worthy of classic Woody Allen.
Ultimately, of course, it comes down to the chemistry between the leads, and Segel and Blunt are tremendously likable performers with a genuine, easy rapport. It’s easy to root for a winning team.