Family Movie Review: The Five-Year Engagement (R)


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MPAA Rating: R     Length: 124 minutes

Appropriate for ages 15+. Pervasive profanity and saucy talk, as well as sexual activity, unprotected, ill advised or outright embarrassing. There are pratfalls and injuries played for comic effect, including a crossbow wound and a couple of amputated digits. Animals are harmed in the telling, if not the making, of this motion picture.

“The Five-Year Engagement” is clever, goofy and consistently entertaining. You could leave the kids at home, but it’s worth saving the date.

By Jared Peterson

“The Five-Year Engagement” is sort of like a pre-wedding album, if there were such a thing—a photostream of the funniest and most embarrassing moments of a couple’s winding, scenic route toward marriage. 

With Jason Segel in charge (he cowrote the screenplay with director Nicholas Stoller), the sasquatch’s share of embarrassment goes, of course, to Segel himself. As in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” he plays a nice guy undone by passive reactions to the mostly justifiable choices of a proactive woman. Not long after proposing to his girlfriend Violet (the fetching and blessedly un-Americanized Emily Blunt), Tom, an up-and-coming San Francisco chef, agrees to dismantle his life and follow her across the country, where she’s accepted a post-grad position at the University of Michigan (O-H-I-O Oh-hi-oh!—sorry, had to be done). In iced-over Ann Arbor, Tom is slowly undone by the realities of, well, exactly what he signed on for. Yielding to caution and circumstances, their marriage keeps getting put on hold. Life goes on for friends and siblings, and ends for several grandparents. (An alternative title could have been “Four Funerals and a Wedding and Maybe Another Wedding, We Really Shouldn’t Say.”)

The message is straightforward: waiting for perfection in a relationship is stupid, about as stupid as swallowing your feelings in a relationship. But the movie’s required life lesson is only incidental to its effectiveness. Segel and Stoller have set up yet another well-oiled comedy delivery system; the story serves as a framework for comic set pieces and the showcasing the brilliance of its second-string talent. The movie is dense with razor-sharp supporting turns by reliable actors like Mindy Kaling and Chris Parnell and stand-ups like Kevin Hart and Brian Posehn. The improvised dialogue that infuses or bookends many scenes adds flights of fancy, but also some moments of intimacy.

Segel is his usual shrugging, bewildered self, which further solidifies the stark divide between those who love him and those who can’t stand him. As for Blunt, I can just hear the echoing refrain of reviewers describing her as “a gifted comic actress,” a backhanded compliment that’s almost always code for “Wow, she’s pretty funny for a woman/British actor who isn’t Russell Brand.” To blazes with that—Blunt is funny, full stop. Granted, the onscreen pairing of a beauty like Blunt and a towering shlub like Segel might be hard to fathom… if not for the real-life (and extremely encouraging) pairing of Blunt and “Office” actor John Krasinski. (Krasinski is harder to dismiss and, judging from his talk show appearances, both confident and relentlessly funny.) Meanwhile, the scene-stealing award goes to Chris Pratt, who takes that prize nearly every week as Andy on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” He matches up nicely with Alison Brie, who does a decent job as Violet’s sister, despite a regrettable decision to drape her in a loose-fitting British accent.

“The Five-Year Engagement” is a better date-night flick than anything else; if you allow your older teens only one rated-R movie every so often, don’t spend it here. Still, it’s light without being frivolous, full without being overcrowded. It has a great cast and delivers consistent, slightly naughty fun.