Five-Year Engagement, The (Review)

FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT, THE (4/27/12; Comedy)
Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Jacki Weaver, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling
SCR: Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller
DIR: Nicholas Stoller
MPAA: R for sexual content and language throughout.
2 hours 4 mins

If you saw the trailers for The Five-Year Engagement, you saw what looked to be an extremely funny look at what happens to a lovable couple when their engagement drags on for years, when their respective careers call. Instead, this lumpy unfocused Judd Apatow-produced mess suffers from the same overkill of the producer’s previous work. It’s not that Segal and Blunt aren’t totally adorable as Tom and Violet. They are.

During the first stretch of the film, they’re the most easygoing and lovey-dovey screen couple ever. They get engaged, thrown an engagement party which allows Tom’s crass brother Alex (Pratt) and Violet’s uptight sister Susie (Brie) to not only steal the show, but hook up and accidentally get pregnant. With their thunder stolen, Tom and Violet delay the wedding and she gets an opportunity to pursue her dream job at the University of Michigan.

That would mean moving from their comfy San Francisco digs and Tom giving up his job as a Sous chef at a wildly successful restaurant. The idea of a couple adjusting their respective wants in the pursuit of companionship is an interesting one, but not here.

Because the entire movie hangs on the idea of when they will get married not if, just about all dramatic heft is left at the altar in favor of badly timed, mostly unfunny jokes: penis jokes, barf jokes, dismemberment jokes and old ladies swearing. One gets the feeling just about every threadbare idea for a scene was fleshed out on the set with endless improvisation.

How else to explain jokes that should factor into the continuity but are forgotten by the next scene, and the fact that half the scenes in the trailer are not in the final film. If ever a movie seemed like it was produced by a focus group, this is it. It’s been a long time since there’s been a comedy that grinds every joke into powder without the good sense to know better.

SPOILER! Take the scene when a depressed Tom hooks up with a horny co-worker in the small town deli he’s working at. It’s not enough that he stumbles into the night guilt-written and covered in food after a sexy food fight. No, somebody had to look at that genuine nugget of a moment and said, “Dude, it would be so funny if he stumbled into the snow … without any pants, fell asleep and … check this out! He has to have his toe amputated. Funny right?” Yeah, hilarious. END SPOILER.

The world needs pop songs as much as it needs symphonies, which is why big-hearted comedies such as Bridesmaids are always on sought-after properties by studios. But comedy is all about the timing, and this movie has none. It just has a bunch of scenes that keep coming at you and keep leading nowhere. It would be an easy swipe to suggestThe Five-Year Engagement feels like it’s five years long, but there’s something to that. It actually feels like it’s about three hours long, when it really clocks in at two, itself, way too long for a movie with no story whatsoever.

The most stunning part is that this film was co-written by Segal and Nicholas Stoller, who collaborated on The Muppets (2011) a movie that was as focused as this one is rambling. The process of elimination leads us to the true villain here, producer Apatow. Even his most successful films have felt overlong, because they are.

Apatow may have a great ensemble and a powerful hit-making machine but he’s an auteur that consistently violates the rule of comedy by packing more gassy scenes into the running time. He ruined his own brilliant Funny People (2009) by doing exactly the same thing. Somebody needs his final cut powers revoked before another decent idea is ruined.

As far as this film is concerned, if you want to laugh, watch the trailer instead. (Universal)

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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