Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Five-Year Engagement - Theatrical Review


Release Date: April 27, 2012

You ever have one of those films that comes along and feels like it can do nothing wrong? The cast is perfect, the people behind the camera are perfect and it has a premise that seems pitch perfect for both. That is what The Five-Year Engagement felt like to me but low and behold it isn't nearly as perfect as the talent who worked on it.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 30 at the Block in Orange
Time: 11:15 pm April 28, 2012
Projector Type: Digital 2D
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime: 2 hr 4 min
Studio: Universal

Loves: Alison Brie, Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, Romantic comedies
Likes: Chris Pratt, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Neutral: Uneven comedies
Hates: Overlong comedies
Fact: Alison Brie is NOT British

Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a movie that proved Jason Segel was more than capable of being a leading man in a romantic comedy. Now he is no longer at a point in his career where he needs to prove that. Instead he needs to prove that he has more to him than JUST being a leading man in a romantic comedy. That is NOT what The Five-Year Engagement sets out to do unfortunately. With a more than capable cast and a director who knows his way around comedy, I couldn't help but feel slightly underwhelmed by a film that seems to be more interested in allowing its stars to run rampant and making sure every single thing they filmed was in the final cut of the film dragging its run time out to an exhausting length as opposed to providing a more tightly focused comedic experience. 

Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) have just gotten engaged one year after first meeting one another. However, their wedding plans hit a road block after Violet gets a chance to follow her dreams which will force her and Tom to postpone their wedding for a couple of years. They then pack up and head off to Michigan where Tom attempts to start a new life leaving his promising career as a head chef behind and Violet works towards her Psychology major. Then after even more complications arise the would be husband and wife duo end up pushing their wedding date back even further until they begin to question whether or not they will or even are meant to be married at all.

The proposal is nothing compared to what comes next.

I liked this movie. I just want to get that out of the way as soon as possible cause I have a feeling this will turn negative all too soon. But yes, I liked this movie quite a lot. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt make for a very likable on-screen couple. Segel, while starting to become a little too one note in his performances as of late, is as charismatic as ever and Blunt is as adorable as she has ever been (plus it was nice to see her keep her native accent even though it didn't really fit the role). Their scenes together showed a lot of chemistry which helped sell the fact that these two people would be willing to do and sacrifice just about anything for the other. By the end of the film I had no problem believing that either would do what they did in order to stay together which was important because MY GOD does it take forever for it to get where its going.

I'm sure you may have heard by now that this movie is pretty long. It's not really unusual for a movie to run over the two hour mark but it is something that most comedies try to avoid. You see, even the funniest movie in the world will begin to wear out its welcome after reaching that dreaded run time so most films in the genre try to keep it short and keep it simple. This isn't a rule of any sort but more of a guide line. Not all films hold true to this guide line and most turn out alright such as something like The 40 Year Old Virgin (which failed when the unrated cut was released however). But then you have yet another Judd Apatow production where the length of the film was a huge detractor with something like Funny People. Sometimes it is just better to cut your losses and go for the shorter run time than it is to keep everything in simply because it makes you laugh. This is probably the biggest problem with The Five-Year Engagement. It has a lot of fat that needed to be trimmed that was left in which makes the entire experience feel overly bloated as a result.

Things don't stay happy for long.

It is hard to say exactly what needed to be cut out but it is also extremely easy to point out what started to make me lose interest. Not all of them are complete scenes either, there are plenty of full sequences that worked fine but just had too much in them. A perfect example of this would be Tom and Violet's first rehearsal dinner where all their friends and loved ones get up to toast the couple. Nearly all of that could have been cut with the two exceptions of Violet's sister Suzie (Alison Brie), who gives quite possibly one of the best speeches of the year, and Tom's friend Alex (Chris Pratt) who provides a colorful history lesson on Tom's previous conquests. But all the other stuff with the individual parents, grandparents and whoever else got up there wasn't needed. Specifically because they were absent for almost the entire movie after that save for the odd funeral scene here and there, and one other scene at the very end.

That is just one example though. Everything having to do with Violet's school and her fellow classmates was not only completely pointless but also a total bore. The experiment she comes up with is ridiculous and it would be a complement to call her classmates broad in their characterizations. The entire quasi relationship she has with her professor was also unnecessary. It only served to create more tension between Tom and Violet which wasn't needed since Tom already had plenty of other reasons to hate their current situation. Which leads to me everything going on with Tom and how he must integrate into the Michigan lifestyle after spending most of his life in the busy metropolis known as San Francisco. Normally this stuff would be funny, seeing Tom go from restaurant to restaurant being turned down by people that were clearly not as skilled as he is in the kitchen, but it made no sense as to WHY he was getting turned down on top of the fact that the film was already starting to feel long. They all laughed at him or played pranks on him but none ever truly treated him as a job applicant. Why wouldn't they want him to work at their restaurant? Is he TOO good for them?

Suzie and Alex steal the show with ease.

As I said, that stuff was sort of amusing but when the film is already running long then there is no reason why scenes like that or those between Violet and her classmates couldn't have just been left on the cutting room floor. Why not keep the focus squarely on Tom and Violet? We didn't need all those extra trimmings, sure their fun but unnecessary. Those are the things that are supposed to be in the deleted scenes section of the eventual blu-ray. To make matters worse the film isn't sure what it wants to be all the time either. Does it want to be a comedy or a drama. Now its fine if it wants to be both but there is a fine balance that needs to be struck in order for both to work and The Five-Year Engagement is severely unbalanced. There are some extremely funny moments all throughout it but those moments are fleeting at best. We would get this laugh-out-loud moment and then almost five to ten minutes of pure drama or romance. But then you have the scenes that are supposed to be funny (Violet's classmates for instance) that is stuck between long stretches of pure drama that when the jokes fall flat makes the film feel very lopsided in favor of the drama when that isn't really the case.

As expected, most of the drama comes from the relationship between Tom and Violet and their struggle to find someway to get married, and that drama works for the most part. Every scene between the two of them felt honest and heartfelt to me. Take for instance the scene where they finally lay their feelings out to one another while in bed one night. There is a lot of truth behind their arguments that many couples can relate to and some really good points are made on both sides. This is where they started to be real characters to me and where their chemistry with one another truly shines through. There are other similarly well executed moments like that scattered about that all do their job in getting you invested in the lives of Tom and Violet but the sheer length of the film makes them less and less impactful as a result. This is not something that is readily apparent during the first half of the film where everything is still fresh and amusing but by the last third of it I guarantee you will be checking your watch wondering when this became a 10 year engagement all of a sudden.

Tom and Violet try to adapt to life in Michigan.

Which is a crying shame because there is a whole lot of great stuff here, you just have to sift through all the other nonsense to get to it unfortunately. This is still a comedy by and large and despite the over abundance of its more dramatic nature, there are some truly hysterical moments that quite honestly had me laughing my ass off. Tom's transformation into a mountain man and the resulting reactions from Violet and friends are priceless. How it hurts him at first to kill a deer and then later on how he isn't phased about it all and apparently has a stockpile of deer meat for their dinners is so absurd that it is almost impossible not to crack a smile, or how Tom's fake orgasm is received...comedy gold. The best is without a doubt the Elmo and Cookie Monster scene which was sold fantastically by both Blunt and Brie. I was laughing so hard that I honestly couldn't tell you half of what was said but their delivery was flawless. I could only imagine what the outtakes would be like for that scene.

As much as I like Segel and Blunt though I would be remiss not to mention how both Brie and Pratt steal just about every single scene in the film right out from under them. The aforementioned toast each gives was only the beginning, then you have their first meeting that was beyond awkward, Pratt's reaction to the botched marriage proposal at the beginning of the film, "I see you are here for the receipts...". Later in the film when they are married with kids and visit Tom and Violet also springs forth a slew of great moments (Pratt's reaction to Tom's new "lifestyle" is great). Then there is the wedding song that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever but just felt exceedingly appropriate for some reason as did its reprisal at the end of the film. I know I have been going on and on about what a detriment the film's length is but Brie and Pratt are the one and only exception. This film needed more of them in a big way.

Tom adapts a little too well.

The only other thing that bothered me a little was the tacked-on-at-the-last-minute-ending. It has become increasing difficult for filmmakers to know how to end their romantic comedies anymore. The happy ending is and always shall be the most obvious choice since most of everyone that enjoys movies of this type WANT to go home feeling good but there is something to be said about those films that end in a more realistic or downbeat way. Not everyone is meant for each other so sometimes people break up. My favorite film still to this day that demonstrates best on how to have an uplifting ending without having that stereotypical Hollywood happy ending is 500 Days of Summer. The ending for this film felt cheap in comparison, almost like they had an original ending where everything didn't end perfect for everyone and after some focus testing decided to make sure that anyone who saw the film would go home feeling better about themselves, which is a noble idea but given everything that goes down in this particular movie, it just didn't fit. Both characters find themselves at a point in their respective lives near the end of the film where it would have been fine to end it but they just had to make sure this didn't end on a downer.

This is the one time I find myself wishing for a director's cut with LESS footage. I feel conflicted, I laughed a lot while watching this movie but I also checked my watch a lot too. There are a lot of great things to recommend this movie for, it's outstanding cast being foremost. I can forgive a lot of things if it makes me laugh and that's what this did, it made me laugh. So yes, be warned that you will most likely start feeling a little long in the tooth while watching it and that there will most likely be more than a few occasions where you are wishing it would just end already. But I feel confident that with such a talented cast mixed with a good-humored nature and a number of big laugh-out-loud moments that you should give this engagement a chance and...




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