Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: "The Five Year Engagement"

The Five Year Engagement stars Jason Segel and Emily Blunt as a near-perfect couple whose professional responsibilities hamper their plans for marriage. Hollywood seems to love Jason Segel these days. Since Judd Apatow wowed audiences in 2007 with Knocked Up, Jason Segel has been an acting, writing and producing monster. I am not as smitten with him as other seems to be. Is it because I once watched five seasons of How I Met Your Mother in three weeks? Or is it because he tainted cherished childhood memories with The Muppets? Emily Blunt is a completely different story. She was great in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and the under-appreciated Sunshine Cleaning (2008), but she has not chosen the best film roles lately. As a couple, the two have a decent amount of chemistry on screen, but I was mostly disappointed by the screenplay, which fell victim to too many lazy cliches. Of course she kisses another man and he gets made when he finds out. Of course the two are perfectly able to find relationships after breaking up. The film really lost itself halfway through and was never able to recover. I was also continually bewildered by two of the featured supporting actors, Alison Brie and Chris Pratt, stars of Community and Parks and Recreation, respectively. It is not hard to believe that Chris Pratt can be an idiot, but a successful chef? Hardly. And Alison Brie with a British accent? Since when was Trudy Campbell English? It all seemed a little far-fetched. The film is co-written and directed by Nicholas Stoller, who is most well known for directing Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was written by Segel. Segel's screenplays have deteriorated since then and The Five Year Engagement is a new low. There are some funny parts, but after a while it just gets excruciatingly awkward. And because I love Pedro Almodovar's Hable con ella (Talk To Her), I did not find the rendition of Cucurrucucu paloma all that hilarious. The Five Year Engagement is mostly a disappointing film with an overworked and overly cliched story that gives its actors far too little to do.

Tom (Segel) and Violet (Blunt) met at a superhero party on New Year's Eve. One year later he proposes to her. They are very much in love and eager to begin their life together. Tom is the sous-chef at an upscale restaurant and works with his best friend Alex (Pratt) in San Francisco. Violet is hoping for a postdoctoral assignment in Psychology at Berkeley, but when that does not work out Tom supports her decision to accept a position at the University of Michigan. It is a two year commitment and Tom is willing to move across the country with his fiancee. Meanwhile, Violet's sister Suzie (Brie) becomes pregnant with Alex's child and the two get married. In Michigan, Violet is happy to be working in academia but Tom struggles to find a job and ends up working at a deli. While he finds a unique group of friends, life in Michigan is depressing. Their wedding plans are continually delayed and a visit from Alex and Suzie showcases just how far Tom has traveled from his previous self. Eventually Violet's relationship with her boss (Rhys Ifans) threatens to ruin their relationship.

The Five Year Engagement is sold to audiences as being from the producers of Bridesmaids. The two are only similar in that they feature relationships that undergo a certain amount of strain before the wedding. Judd Apatow's filmography features similar characters in equally cliched situations. The one advantage he had was that his writing and insight were superior to his peers. If he continues to associate himself with films of this inferior calibre, audiences are not going to react positively to his own directorial features. A preview for his new film, This Is 40, played before the film and even Sasha Baron Cohen's The Dictator got more (un)deserved?) laughs. Jason Segel needs to stray from his comfort zone in the near future. It is important for him to show audiences that he is capable of playing something other than the every-man romantic lead. It is a  bit tiring. The same goes for Emily Blunt. Stop playing the flirty girlfriend. A tough, dark, gritty role would be great for her. She was a great Queen Victoria, but I really want to see more characters akin to Emily in The Devil Wears Prada. The Five Year Engagement is one of the last releases in April, and unfortunately it does nothing to disprove my theory of the vast wasteland of post-Oscar releases.

My rating: 2 stars out of 4.

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