From producer Judd Apatow, co-written and starring Jason Segel, The Five-Year Engagement is a romantic comedy that follows the five-year engagement of chef Tom Solomon (Segel) and budding psychology post-doctorate Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt). The couple see their plans for marriage postponed when Violet moves them both from San Francisco to Michigan in order to pursue her life dream of becoming a tenured professor alongside Winston Childs (Rhys Ifans). A series of setbacks both personal and professional result in them postponing their marriage, while Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie) manages to meet someone, get married and have kids. As more time passes Tom and Violet begin to question whether they should get married at all.
The strength of romantic comedies often lies in the central relationship and in Blunt and Segel, The Five-Year Engagement has an easy believable chemistry and underpins the more unbelievable elements of the script. Segel, who has become adept at playing the slightly clumsy gentle giant is in good, if predictable form. The supporting cast are also in good form, and each character brings a slightly quirky characteristic that remains grounded by Tom and Violet’s normality. In The Five-Year Engagement they are the ‘straight men’ to the insanity of everyone else, but as the plot is revealed their own problems and insecurities cleverly position them as just as crazy as everyone else.
Fans of American TV shows Community and The Office will be pleased to see Alison Brie and Mindy Kaling on fine form, but the real surprise is Emily Blunt. Shedding her sometimes sharp British characteristics to give Violet some real depth and likable charm, she quickly becomes the highlight of film. Her relaxed attitude throughout allows the audience to care about what happens within their relationship and helps The Five-Year Engagement skip from one set of events to the next.
Only it doesn’t skip. It drags. Some more pronounced editing is needed as the running time for what is effectively a by-the-numbers romantic comedy is far too long. The moments of comedy and heart-felt emotion are dragged to bizarre lengths and sadly for every Cookie Monster/Elmo conversation, there’s a frostbitten toe scene (this makes more sense if you’ve seen the film). While the added running time does give the impression of a really protracted relationship, The Five-Year Engagement could really have done with losing about half an hour of the running time so that the audience had some patience for the final act.
Segel has proved adept as both a comic actor and a writer in recent years, but The Five-Year Engagement does nothing to further his cause. His easy chemistry with Emily Blunt is the highlight of what is really a mediocre romantic comedy, but it’s time he stretched himself and stopped playing variations on his popular character Marshall from TV show How I Met Your Mother. Funny, but not quite funny enough to justify a running time over two hours, The Five-Year Engagement feels as long as it sounds.