Friday, May 18, 2012

Movie with Abe: The Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Released April 27, 2012

So many comedies are about relationships. There are different stages within a relationship, all of which are ripe for jokes and entertaining plots, not the least of which is the transition from dating to marriage. In the last collaboration between writer-actor Jason Segel and director Nicholas Stoller, “Forgetting Sarah Marhall,” Segel’s character faced a breakup almost from the start, struggling for the length of the film to get over his ex while she turned out to be rather present in his daily life. This time, Segel found the perfect woman and didn’t let her go, but, as always seems to be the case, especially in movies, getting hitched isn’t as simple as it seems.

Segel proved himself enormously capable of taking on a lead role in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Here, as Tom, he’s less energetic and more of a straight man, reacting more calmly to most things and playing the jokes smaller. He’s paired with a lovely leading lady, the wonderful Emily Blunt, who has established herself as enormously capable in a variety of genres over the last decade. As Violet, Blunt is charismatic and likeable, and the two make a terrific duo, extremely knowledgeable at how best to play off each other for the greatest possible effect.

Like all such films, there’s a reliable ensemble behind the stars. This movie draws particularly from the NBC TV comedy world, poaching Chris Pratt from “Parks & Recreation,” Alison Brie from “Community,” and Mindy Kaling from “The Office” to add laughs in their supporting roles. Rhys Ifans also takes on a less comic part and serves as a crucial part of the film’s plot as Violet’s professor. While some characters are definitely extravagant, none are too over-the-top to be excessively distracting. Pratt and Brie make an extremely entertaining duo as Tom’s best friend and Violet’s sister, respectively.

Like “Wedding Crashers” and “Knocked Up” before it, “The Five-Year Engagement” has an above-average running time for a comedy, clocking in at two hours and four minutes. Yet it doesn’t feel overlong, incorporating plenty of plot developments and character transformations as its two protagonists experience highs and lows. It’s not excessively inappropriate or exceptionally clever, instead presenting a rather straightforward, perfectly enjoyable, decently dramatic and enthralling story filled with rich characters and amusing writing. Its many ups and downs feature just one truly lamentable stretch – in which Tom boasts unbelievably unfortunate facial hair – and the film manages, more often than not, to get itself back on track when it starts to derail. Throughout the film, Tom and Violet are more than likeable, and it’s hard not to enjoy seeing their relationship develop.


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