REVIEW: 'The Five-Year Engagement'
Friday, April 27, 2012
For all purposes, The Five-Year Engagement should be a very standard and very predictable romantic comedy. It relies on many of the standard romantic comedy plot points. In fact, there were even times I started having flashbacks to the fake romantic comedy that Jason Segel "starred" in Friends With Benefits. By any film standard, I should probably dismiss The Five-Year Engagement as just another romantic comedy.
But it isn't just another romantic comedy.
While the plot of The Five-Year Engagement isn't one that will win any awards for creativity, the film is carried to another level by its cast. Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, The Muppets, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), building upon his usual affable everyman character, shows a higher level of character development than we usually get from him. Segel's characters usually openly display their emotions (even if it means doing so when not wearing any clothes). Tom Solomon's internalized unhappiness grows as the film goes along, allowing Segel to create a character who is outwardly happy while pressure builds inside. And when I say that Segel creates this character, I have to point out that he actually did create this character. Like with The Muppets and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the screenplay is his work. The guy's on quite the roll these past few years.
Many reviews of The Five-Year Engagement have referred to Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau, The Devil Wears Prada) as the movie's secret weapon. I'm actually going to nominate another secret weapon in a second, but for this part, I'll agree with those reviews. Blunt was very strong in a supporting role in The Adjustment Bureau, and this film is her chance to go big. Playing Violet Barnes, she has excellent and believable chemistry with Segel (something you don't always get with your romantic comedy leads ... I'm looking at you, No Strings Attached). In fact, Blunt is the cog that the other pieces of The Five-Year Engagement revolve around, something that is apparent in the scenes she shares with Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men), who plays her sister Suzie.
Which leads us to my nominations for the other secret weapon of The Five-Year Engagement — Brie and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation, Moneyball). Playing the couple of Suzie (the sister of the bride) and Alex (the best friend of the groom), these two are hilarious together. For those who don't already know her as Community's Annie Edison, The Five-Year Engagement is going to be Brie's breakout role. Two of the film's funniest scenes — an engagement party toast and an argument conducted with an Elmo impression — belong to her (all while donning a British accent). It won't be long before a director casts Brie in a lead role. Pratt continues to show versatility in the roles he chooses, whether its Parks and Rec's Andy (if you haven't seen his Rambo impression yet, catch last night's episode) or the baseball player looking for a second chance in Moneyball.
Director Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), who also wrote the screenplay with Segel, keeps the two-hour movie moving along at a brisk pace, avoiding the traps of the standard romantic comedy. At this point, I'm probably going to watch anything Stoller and Segel put together.
It's not hard to throw together a random cast and create a romantic comedy. I'm sure Patrick Dempsey will agree to be in any romantic comedy you offer him. When you get a cast like the one Segel and Stoller brought together for The Five-Year Engagement, you can create a film that transcends the cookie-cutter romantic comedy.