“The 5-Year Engagement” Is Decently Funny

I talk a lot about how much I love realism in movies. I also talk a lot about how much of a man crush I have on Jason Segel, but I never thought I’d think that either one could be too much in one sitting. And in a way, that’s sort of what I got from watching “The 5-Year Engagement.”

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy Segel’s humor in all of its forms, whether it’s perfect nice guy Marshall Erikson on “How I Met Your Mother” or the blubbering and heartbroken Peter Bretter in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”. He’s still got all of that likability, and his chemistry with the stunning yet real-looking Emily Blunt works well in “The 5-Year Engagement”, but at the end of the day there is just something missing from the movie that leaves it just shy of enjoyable.

The general premise can be summed up by that oft-quoted John Lennon phrase: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In gorgeous-looking San Francisco, Tom (Jason Segel) is a chef in an upscale restaurant and Violet (Emily Blunt) is a jobless Psychology PhD graduate. After meeting on New Year’s Eve they are engaged one year later and everything seems to be going swimmingly well. Ideally, they would get married and stay in the area, but the best position that Violet can get is a post-doctoral two-year study at the University of Michigan. So Tom begrudgingly agrees to leave behind his career and relocate to snowy, woodsy Michigan. And of course, their impending wedding day continually begins to get pushed further and further back as family members wither away and Violet’s sister begins to have kids and get married (oh the strangely political competitive nature of siblings!). But of course, Tom and Violet only have to stay in Michigan for two years, right? For now…

Even after the initial conversation in which Tom promises to never get resentful for leaving his booming chef career to stay with Violet, the move inevitably takes its toll, especially after it gets extended indefinitely. Tom is only able to find work at a sandwich shop and takes up a whole slew of strange hobbies: hunting by crossbow, cooking venison, growing bizarre beards, and…making mead? The hick-ish lifestyle that he slides into – despite being uber masculine and all that – is a massive blow to his ego, even more so as Violet rises into the hyper-intellectual realm of academia. Tom and Violet, despite being madly in love with one another, are constantly pulled in these opposite directions over the course of five long years. The situation takes its toll on the couple and perhaps due to a lack of genuinely light humor, the strain takes something from the viewer as well. Very seldom throughout the course of the film do you feel happy. “The 5-Year Engagement” can be funny, sure, but not quite enough to sustain itself.

We spend hours looking at a situation so painfully realistic only to have the final scene be something ridiculously akin to a Shakespearean romance where everything magically just works out in a nearly sickeningly unrealistic finale where everybody winds up married and happy. Those of you that know me well know I’m the most ridiculous hopeless romantic out there, but even I get annoyed when a movie pulls a 180 like that. I’m happy for Tom and Violet, but the movie’s ending seems to be at odds with the biggest themes it was working with.

Ultimately, “The 5-Year Engagement” is decent and might be worth your time if you’re a big fan of Jason Segel and/or Emily Blunt, but if you happen to miss it, I wouldn’t worry too much!

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