I really enjoy just about everything that Jason Segal is involved in- for the most part anyway. I really loved THE MUPPETS and I owe him a debt of gratitude for having the passion to help get the Muppets back into the mainstream even if his name didn’t really sell me on the movie. Overall though, based just on his personality not just as an actor in his specific roles but as a person he just seems like a really nice guy and really hard not to like. THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT puts him back into the Aptatow universe and back with director Nicholas Stoller in those likable shoes, but there aren’t enough quality jokes to carry him or the film all the way through its bloated run time.
The title of the film should be self explanatory, but essentially THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT follows a couple (Jason Segal and Emily Blunt) from the moment they get engaged, through to the inevitable end of the engagement- rather it’s a breakup or a wedding I will not say, but obviously it spans five years. Between there are delays because of a career opportunity and the extension of that opportunity, but also because of personal issues rather they be doubts about their stability as a couple due to one being happy and the other holding resentment due to their significant other’s success. The result is a mixed bag of comedy that is sweet at times, ridiculous at others and eventually it just feels way longer than it ever needed to be.
Segal and Blunt are extremely likable as a couple which helps when it comes to caring where the film ends up. There is however a section in the middle that feels like it could have been cut altogether and it would have only improved the film. That section involves Segal having grown a mountain man beard and acts like a Neanderthal which is meant to highlight the depression he’s slipping into because he hates where they moved to, but it’s also incredibly ridiculous and out of character with the rest of the film- also wildly silly in its own depiction of life in the Midwest. This is the section of the film is easily the central area of complaints I had- mostly because the majority of it isn’t funny and is very obviously meant to be over the top to create laughs, but is dreadfully inept at doing so.
Stoller and Segal are great at creating moments of hilarious comedy, but did so to better effect in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL than they were able to here. That’s not to say the film isn’t funny, it’s just way more hit and miss this time around. It also has an annoying similarity to FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL in the reliance of showing Segal naked in awkward situations which audiences got plenty of in so it just seems like they reached in the well way too many times here. One particular gag that I found very funny didn’t even involve Segal- instead it was Blunt and the always funny and cute Alison Brie as they traded dialogue back and forth as Elmo and Cookie Monster. The rest of the supporting cast is phenomenal too including Chris Pratt, Brian Posehn, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Rhys Ifans and Chris Parnell- all have really great comedic moments.
A handful of the films jokes center around Blunt’s character and her position in the psychology department conducting a series of tests on people to then analyze the results. The gag itself wears thin because it’s the whole reason the couple struggle because she has taken a job to do little but trick people and laugh at how they react and eventually get promoted for doing so. There’s no sense to why she’s so good at what she does- which just leads to why the middle half of the movie is so difficult to watch. There are jokes that come from these “tests” that are funny in their own right, but not funny enough to hang the success of the film on.
Had the film been about a half hour shorter, it could have been one of the best comedies of the year- at just over two hours there’s just too much time where nothing funny or particularly interesting is going on. Things wrap up in a fun and sweet fashion mercifully following the less than satisfactory middle chunk. THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT is very much like the marriage depicted- full of highs and lows, trials and tribulations and comes down in the end as a charming but flawed raunchy romantic comedy.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)