in an attempt to do a more mature movie, jason segel (along with his writing partner nicholas stoller and producer judd apatow) gave us the five-year engagement. it’s more grown up in that unlike most romcom, the couple in question are in a relationship already when the movie begins. the conceit is that it’s a movie about the period when most romcoms ends and before the marriage begins. it’s an admirable premise, but the movie ultimately lets everyone down.
segel plays tom, a sous chef of a fancy restaurant in san francisco who in the opening sccene proposes to his girlfriend of one year, violet, played by emily blunt. while he’s on his way up, violet did not get the university job she wanted and had to settle for an offer from the university of michigan. the couple decides to downgrade from the livable coastal city and move to michigan just so she can do what she’s always wanted to do. as one would expect, such downgrade also affect their plan to get married.
despite its marketing, advertising, and the poster, the five-year engagement is neither the rip-roaring comedy nor a romcom they want you to think it is. while segel and blunt make a likable and charming couple, the film goes down darker path than one would expect. it’s never out right hilarious, but it’s never deep enough to be in the same league as annie hall or when harry met sally, or even forget paris, the overlooked/underrated billy crystal/debra winger romcom. it’s more of an inferior version of apatow-ized four weddings and a funeral.
most of the laughs come from segel and blunt as a couple. while segel has a natural likability and it’s nice to see blunt having more to do than being matt damon’s sidekick, one would be better off sticking with nbc’s thursday night comedy lineup. there’s chris pratt from tv’s parks and recreation doing more or less the same character from his tv show, and alison brie from tv’s community and tv’s mad men. segel, as likable as he is, is more interesting to watch on tv’s how i met your mother than here. mindy kaling from tv’s the u.s. version of the office is one of blunt’s collegue, along with kevin hart who’s obsessed with masturbation. there is also snl’s chris parnell, playing a wacky character that you expect, you may enjoy it if you’ve never seen tv’s 30 rock. comedian brian phoehn plays segel’s midwestern sidekick/comic relief. rhys ifans is barely recognizable as a college professor, unlike the sloppy friend/sidekick/roomate from the likes of notting hill, human nature, and formula 51.
there are nuggets of truth in the movie: the idea of doing what one wants even though things may not be perfect, and being in love with someone who’s not 100% compatible. i also like the fact that segel’s character turns into a mustached hunter after downgrading from the livable costal city to the midwest. afterall, that’s where all the militias come from, the midwest, the south, or arizona. pratt and brie provide a contrast to our main couple. in a meta sense, i also like the fact that they barely mention the fact that blunt’s character is british and have the american brie doing a british accent instead of the other way around.
the first act introduces all the elements, it eventually falls into the same formula as most romcoms that i was hoping it won’t fall into. it’s set up to be an aversion to the typical romcom formula but eventually the plot comes into place and it settles for all the conventions that is typical of romcoms that’s been used and have been cliched since tv’s mad about you a decade ago. it’s nowhere near the same league as annie hall or when harry met sally, or segel’s works on tv’s how i met your mother, as forgettable as forgetting sarah marshall, but nowhere near as meorable as tv’s freaks and geeks or the apatow-esque i love you man, which is the best bromance movie that apatow has nothing to do with. without much insights into the couple’s issues, it would have been better off had they just made a movie with the same characters without the plot.