Friday, February 15, 2013

The Argument Against Long Dramedies: The Five-Year Engagement

The Good: One or two lines, The acting is okay
The Bad: Not particularly engaging characters, Not particularly funny, Pacing, Dull plot
The Basics: The Five-Year Engagement took me so many times to get through, I can’t possibly recommend it.

It always amuses me how fast the current flavor of the month is parlayed into new opportunities by producers and studios. The Five-Year Engagement is billed as a comedy by the producers of Bridesmaids (reviewed here!) and it may be one of the biggest drags of a mainstream dramedy in recent memory. In fact, my wife, who loves comedies, put off watching the film for four weeks and when we started it – despite the fact that she was looking forward to seeing it based on her love of Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses, and Bad Teacher - it took her fifteen laughless minutes before she decided she was out. It took me three more weeks to bother trying to sit through it again.

The Five-Year Engagement is a stacked-deck cast that seems like it would deliver comedic gold. With the likes of Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, Chris Parnell, and Brian Posehn, it seems like The Five-Year Engagement should be riotously funny. Alas, though, it is surprisingly flat on the humor front, opting more toward realism and painful awkwardness than anything that will generate laughs.

After dating for a very short time, Tom Solomon proposes (awkwardly) to his girlfriend, Violet Barnes. After a disastrous announcement dinner where Violet’s sister messes around with Tom’s idiot best friend, Alex, Violet fails to get her dream job. Instead, she gets a teaching job in the social psychology department in Michigan. Tom’s job prospects dry up in Michigan and he finds it impossible to keep with the status quo.

As Tom and Violet begin fighting about her continued work, his desire not to have children and his lack of direction in life, Tom becomes an outdoorsman and hunter. Violet tries to confide in her professor, Winton Childs, who takes the opportunity to make a move on her, and their engagement stretches on for years as a result.

Jason Segel and director Nicholas Stoller co-wrote the script for The Five-Year Engagement and Segel seems determined to make another version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (reviewed here!) in terms of mood and characters. The Five-Year Engagement has pacing that is so slow it is excruciating to watch. None of the characters are particularly likable and the humor falls so flat that the longer it went on, the less interested I was in how the film might get resolved.

By the halfway mark, I found myself considering the career of Rhys Ifans. Ifans appears in The Five-Year Engagement as Violet’s boss, Professor Childs. I was thinking of how last year, when The Five-Year Engagement was a good year for Ifans. He appeared in this and as the villain in The Amazing Spider-Man (reviewed here!). I could have lived with him being cast as the villain in Skyfall (reviewed here!) and he could have really hit the trifecta. It seems like he had the gravitas for Silva, the villain in SkyFall and the fact that The Five-Year Engagement was so slow and dull that I was left thinking about that should be all that really needs to be said about how bland the film is.

Despite not having likable characters and any number of lines that are more awkward than funny and the rest of the film being not particularly funny, The Five-Year Engagement has fairly competent acting. Jason Segel has a good dramatic presence and Emily Blunt plays pretty much the same type character I have seen her play in virtually everything I have seen her in (including interviews where she is just playing herself). The Five-Year Engagement does not use most of its comedic firepower to actually deliver funny lines and for me to write more about it seems to just be beating this particularly dead horse. I cannot think of a movie in recent memory that I flat-out enjoyed less than The Five-Year Engagement.

For other works with Emily Blunt, please visit my reviews of:
The Adjustment Bureau
Salmon Fishing In The Yemen
Charlie Wilson’s War
Dan In Real Life
The Devil Wears Prada


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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