Friday, May 4, 2012

Man on Film: The Five-Year Engagement

It has gotten to the point with the Team Apatow flicks where you tend to look forward to non-Judd Apatow directed films. He has assembled quite the cadre of talented comedic minds around him and certainly has comedic chops himself, but the proper Judd Apatow films tend to need a slightly more cutthroat hand in the editor's room.

Perhaps the most pleasant of the surprises of the the aforementioned lot of films was Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the first film from the team of writer/director Nicholas Stoller and occasional writing partner Jason Segel. It was with that--and the success of The Muppets--that one came into their newest project, The Five-Year Engagement.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall it wasn't.

The Five-Year Engagement is the closest to a straight-up romantic comedy as the Apatow crew has come. To be fair, it is not the typical documentation of a relationship in its courtship phase or the tired scenario in which the two main characters are clearly perfect for each other but they're stuck in a relationship that clearly doesn't befit their outstanding moral fiber. This starts with the proposal and then spends the entire rest of the film building a storm that they have to weather to stay together. In the case of The Five-Year Engagement, that storm is the unenviable fate of living in Michigan. To support his fiance, Tom Solomon (Segel) gives up his career as a chef in high-end San Francisco restaurants taking a job in a sandwich shop in Ann Arbor while Violet (Emily Blunt) pursues her career in academia. It operates in something that at least vaguely resembles the real world, unlike most romantic comedies. This is an important distinction, and The Five-Year Engagement is better than most rom-com fare, being far more adult than the ultimately simplistic and idealistic genre ever gets.

Unfortunately, The Five-Year Engagement does not live up to the standards that the previous teaming of the team of Segel and Stoller got. It is funny. It seems to have elements of a personal tale, presumably Stoller's. There is no point in the film in which you are not wanting to be there watching it, but it also doesn't step past the realm of simply being a pleasant film. It's got elements to like. Jacki Weaver and Alison Brie are both funny. Chris Pratt is outstanding. Segel and Blunt work well together for the most part. Pratt alone almost takes the film to that next level, but it doesn't quite get there.

In the end, The Five-Year Engagement is an all right time. Certainly something that both halves of a relationship can enjoy. It just isn't quite as good as Stoller and Segel's other output.

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