HST… Film Review: The Five-Year Engagement

Five Year Engagement HeaderLauren:  Having the tagline “from the producer of Bridesmaids” splashed all over the TV spots and poster is quite the stamp on a project.  Well, maybe not the producer part, but definitely the word Bridesmaids.  But don’t let the name-drop fool you; The Five-Year Engagement is quite a different beast from that non-stop laugh fest of comedic poo jokes and pre-wedding hijinks.  Sure, there are pre-wedding problems here as well, but don’t go in ready to compare the two as this is more about the couple confronting life as their ride to the alter constantly finds more bumps to bottom out on.

Zac: Agreed, I was expecting this to be much more of a comedy, but it is actually almost a drama first/comedy second.  Not that this is a bad thing; my expectations were just askew after the director’s, Nicholas Stoller, previous films; Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek.  The film works, and is sometimes even strong as a dramatic piece, and the messages the film is sending about marriage/relationships are real and genuine.  It doesn’t hurt to have such a great actress like Emily Blunt as your female lead either, and she and Jason Segel have a terrific amount of chemistry through out the film.

That isn’t to say the film isn’t funny though, quite the contrary.  Chris Pratt and Alison Brie are both hilarious every time they show up, and the film has more than a handful of inspired moments of comedy sprinkled around.  The laughs are big when they hit and the film rarely drops a joke; just don’t expect a laugh a minute riot, like Lauren advises above.

Lauren:  Actually, when you think about it Pratt and Brie are the catalysts for a lot of the moments of comedy, as the attempt is to keep the relationship between Blunt and Segel closer to genuine (not to say they aren’t deserving of every laugh they earn themselves).  This could be why they stole the film for me, especially when it comes to the relationships with the main characters.  As sisters, Brie and Blunt have some of the bigger laughs, including a speech given by a rather emotional Brie at her sister’s engagement party (again, refraining from comparing to that from Bridesmaids), as well as a conversation presented in a family friendly fashion later on.

In general, comedy works best, for the most part, when it is at the service to the story, or rather, when it manages to feel natural to the scene, no matter how outlandish it actually is.  This doesn’t mean that there can’t be moments that don’t push it along, like a random few seconds of watching Segel work the physical humor as he scrapes at his frozen windshield.  I just mean that it has to serve a purpose, such as showing how miserable his characters current situation is.

Which is where the problem arises for me when we delve into the dramedy genre.  I found myself asking why they chose to go as far as they did with some ridiculous moments because they were off beats in the tone.  And not only that, but it started to feel as if certain plot points or gags were thrown in simply because they work for laughs (such as the reappearance of Segel’s butt).  A few times as the five years are filled in, a few jokes within this film are overused, and then conventional relationship jokes/problems arise possibly because someone felt it was necessary.  Honestly I think there could have been a more natural progression as they work through the relationship towards the latter portion, instead of going to the extremes that were chosen.

Zac: The film does dip its toes in cliché a bit more than one would like, especially when it is doing a great job at taking a different spin on the romantic comedy/dramedy the rest of the run time.  The relationship between Blunt & Segel is deep enough and full of enough valid issues to cause trouble for them, but Stoller and Segel felt the need to wedge in cheap roadblocks.  Not only would letting their issues cause more problems feel more natural, it might have also allowed the film to trim some of its lengthy runtime.  The film drags on more than one occasion and I don’t think that was because I was expecting a more traditional comedy formula going in.

Lauren:  Exactly.  A toe (or more) enjoys the dirty pool water, but the movie does manage to make it out pre-drowning; it just had a cramp that took it under while testing the waters is all.

All the digs aside, the good does outweigh the bad both pre and post cramping.  And talk about an ending.  I know Zac and I have seen our fair share of movies that are comparable to this, but somehow it managed to create an ending that was worthy of all the great bits.  Not only that, but for all the cliché’s it was pretty original to boot.

Zac: I was worried about the ending about half way through.  I started to think, “Are they going to end this with a potentially happy ambiguity most rom-com’s are going with nowadays?”  Sure this scenario is more realistic than the super happy ending, and in actuality I prefer something more of that ilk then all smiles, but the trope seems to have become tired as it has been used so much.  Color me very pleasantly surprised and happy with the ending.

The Five-Year Engagement isn’t the straight comedy you might think it’s going to be and is a really honest look at relationships at its core.  There is still plenty to laugh at though, so don’t be deterred by the film’s heart.  Just know going in that things are more serious than something like Forgetting Sarah Marshall; which had quite a bit of heart of its own.

Zac: B-
Lauren: B-        

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