Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review: The Five-Year Engagement

Jason Segal is awesome. He’s one of the best comedic actors in Hollywood, he’s a talented writer and pretty much dedicated something like five years of his life to bringing the Muppets back into popularity (Then rode into sunset like a man after it was all over). He’s like the perfected version of what Seth Rogen is famous for being, except he’s much taller and has a waaay better first name. The Five-Year Engagement is, more or less, a follow-up to Segal and frequent collaborator/director Nicholas Stoller’s critically acclaimed Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Directed by Stoller and written by both it’s another quirky R-Rated romantic comedy.

The problem is that when it came out on April 27th it bombed. Hell, every new movie that came out April 27th bombed leaving Think Like a Man on top of the Box Office yet again (I haven’t seen it yet but this might be the most annoying weekend result for me since The Expendables made Scott Pilgrim bomb). As of this writing it’s only made about a third of its budget back and with The Avengers (150 million bucks and counting) coming out this weekend I’m guessing it’s not going to have an upswing any time soon. But as John Carter taught us a bad financial outing doesn’t mean a film is bad so we’re going to give this flick a chance.

Full review after the jump.


Aw,  it's that nice place in a romance before everything goes to hell

Tom (Segal) and Violet (Emily Blunt) are on their way to a New Year’s Eve party to celebrate the one year anniversary of their first meeting when Tom suddenly proposes. They begin to start the process but find themselves having to delay the wedding due to unforeseen circumstances with Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie) and then again when Violet is accepted to a doctoral program in Michigan. The two decide to go roll with the punches and causally push back the wedding, but more and more bad luck keeps befalling the two as they keep having to postpone their nuptials, every year taking more of a toll on their relationship.

One of the two most basic things about a movie in this genre is whether or not it’s actually funny and the short answer is: yes, it is. Like with The Muppets the jokes aren’t all the funniest things in the world but every once in a while there’s something so incredibly funny that it makes it up. Also there’s a lot of subtle humor that you have to notice. Some of them can be missed if you aren’t paying attention but if it doesn’t go over your head this should be a very entertaining film for you. It, like several similar romcoms coming out lately, utilizes the R-rating well. It also manages not to be all that cliché mainly because of the five year time frame the movie deals with (Though trust me, it doesn’t completely avoid it).

They spend most of the movie playing God with strangers and Brian Posehn
The Five-Year Engagement also has, and I think I may be saying this with zero percent hyperbole, the greatest comedic supporting cast ever assembled in a film. A film with Mindy Kaling, Chris Parnell, Brian Posehn, Kevin Hart (Two of my favorite stand-up comics), and Alison Brie? Holy shit, you guys. And they’re all used in ways that greatly play up their strengths as actors and come off very well. Except Kevin Hart, who is depressingly underutilized. I guess he was saving his best material for the trailers of Think Like a Man. But basically they come in, do their job, are funny, and pretty much leave before you can start noticing any weaknesses which is a recipe for a great time.

If I can sort of interrupt for a second I want to mention that I’ve been told that the main weakness in my blog has been that I get a bit too “feminist” when discussing women characters. The truth is I don’t think I can actually call myself a feminist, mainly because I do this whole “Hottest Women in Hollywood List” thing without a shred of irony. Speaking of which, how hot is Alison Brie? “Extremely” is the correct word.

#12: Amanda Seyfried 
#11: Greta Gerwing 
#10: Natalie Portman 
#9: Bryce Dallas Howard 
#8: Amy Acker 
#7: Reese Witherspoon 
#6: Kat Dennings 
#5: Anna Kendrick
#4: Alison Brie
#3: Anne Hathaway 
#2: Ellen Page 
#1: Michelle Trachtenberg

85% of the reasons I don't want Community canceled
The fact is the only thing more attractive than a pretty woman with curves is a pretty woman with curves who also has a great sense of humor, thus this list. Brie plays Violet’s sister Suzie with is kind of weird because Brie isn’t English though she does try her hardest to be English in this film. She’s actually pretty good here and gets to be funny in places where the script calls for Emily Blunt to be serious. Had this movie not failed this could have been her breakout role that finally gets her out of that cease pool called “Network Television”. 

I wasn’t a big fan of Chris Pratt here partly because his character Alex is extremely similar to his loser character on Parks & Recreations but mostly because Alex is such a f**king asshole. I think the movie is going for a combination of stupid and immature for his personality but I swear to God everything out of his mouth is designed to be as combative and contrary to whatever Tom is currently saying and does so in the most insensitive way possible. They’re supposed to be best friends but I just wanted to punch the crap out of him every time he opened his mouth. Some of his scenes actually made me want to hurt myself.

Speaking of characters one huge problem I had with the film was with the leads. Nothing against their actors but I just wasn’t able to connect with people they portray. Mainly it’s Violet who I kind of intensely dislike. I suspect the film is trying to make me think that the problems with their relationship is the two of them going in different directions in life but in truth it’s because Violet is a bit of a inconsiderate dick. Basically they move to Michigan for her to go to school, despite the fact that Tom doesn’t want to but does so without complaint because he loves her and ends up miserable. But Violet really doesn’t give him much for all that he gives and it gets steadily bad. In fact after a while Tom gets a bit…odd (“Have some of my homemade mead”) as a coping mechanism and rather than just shaking her head and accepting it as the price she has to pay for getting her dream job she sort of turns on him which I found to be pretty goddamned messed up. But then again she eventually does something to Tom that my ex-fiancée did to me like nine years ago so I could be utterly biased. Bottom line though is that I really want them to get together during a pretty sizable portion of the flick and that is the exactly wrong way I should feel about a couple in a film like this.

Your meaningless life is her psychology experiment
There was also an issue with the tone of the film. The flick is at its best when things go over the top and get ridiculous. I can’t even give examples because I think it would weaken the jokes, but trust me; it’s pretty hilarious stuff. But those “WTF” humor moments are few and far between and frankly the flick would have been more enjoyable if we had a lot more of that. Instead we get a lot of melodrama in between laughs, mainly concerning the failing relationship, and things have tendency to get really heavy. Having both extremes in one film is a bit tiring. This isn’t helped by the length of the movie because it’s very long. I don’t really want to call this a Con but if you go out without expecting a long movie experience you’ll end up pretty annoyed. 

This movie reminds me of last year’s Bridesmaids (almost certainly intentional on the producers' part) in that it’s a mostly funny comedy with some fairly large flaws that balances out as being “good.” Though while Bridesmaids was a surprise hit The Five-Year Engagement was kind of a surprise bomb. I liked this movie alright, but I obviously had some issues with it. This may be a film you need to see for yourself to judge but if you like any of Jason Segal’s other work, both as a writer and an actor, you’ll likely enjoy this one as well. If you like romcoms this one will probably be worth your time as well. If you aren’t really in to either one I’m not sure anything here will change your mind. 

I give The Five-Year Engagement 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


Pros 

-Fantastic supporting cast 

-When it’s funny it’s extremely funny 

-It feels different than a typical romcom 

Cons 

-I didn’t particularly like the main characters 

-The tone is uneven 


@JasonBetaMagnus

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