‘The Five-Year Engagement’ desperately needs more laughs

Jason Segel, Emily Blunt and Rhys Ifans in ‘The Five-Year Engagement
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I’m a big fan of Emily Blunt.

I became a big fan of Jason Segel’s after his recent work in Jeff, Who Lives at Home.

I’m a big fan of director Nicholas Stoller, after Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek.

So what the heck happened to their newest collaboration, The Five-Year Engagement?

I’m still wondering, more than a day after leaving the auditorioum as I shook my head over what I’d just seen.  The problem is, I went to see a movie marketed as being “from the producer ofBridesmaids, and this just wasn’t nearly funny enough.

Segel is Tom Solomon, a chef with a good job in San Francisco, a very beautiful live-in girlfriend named Violet Barnes (Blunt) and on a special anniversary in their relationship, he proposes and she accepts.  They are cute, successful and very much in love.  Tom’s best friend “Alex” (Chris Pratt) works as another chef at the same restaurant and is a bit off the wall.  Violet’s sister, “Suzie” (Alison Brie) and Alex will be major factors in the story that follows.

Tom and Violet throw the obligatory engagement party and things start to fall apart there, including a funny bit by Alex that’s featured prominently in the film’s trailer.  Afterwards, the wedding has to be put off.  Seems Violet’s been accepted into a post-doctoral teaching program in Michigan and Tom, being a good trooper, volunteers to quit his job and go with her.  That’s an ill-timed decision, as his boss tells him she was going to name him head chef at her new restaurant, just after he gives notice.  That job will instead go to Alex.

Violet’s job at Michigan goes well, thanks to the fact that her new boss, “Winton Childs” (Rhys Ifans, who was so damn funny in Notting Hill) is clearly warm for her form.  She is working with others who are also competing with her for a tenured position on the faculty, although this competition is not made clear to the audience until later.

Remember that engagement party?  Seems that Alex and Suzie hooked up that night and as a result, they’re expecting a child.  Naturally, that means they have to get married, so they will get to the altar first.  Alex is doing well as the chef of Clambar, the restaurant that Tom was supposed to be helming, and their marriage is cute.  So is their child, who we see more of later.

Tom does not do well in Michigan.  He can’t find work as a chef and ends up working at a bakery.  He doesn’t like the weather, although he does make friends and learns some new things.  He goes through quite a transformation at one point.

Chris Pratt and Jason Segel in ‘The Five-Year Engagement’

Eventually, Violet gets something that’s destined to change the lives of herself and Tom.  That promotion, which means she’ll be in Michigan for a few more years and Tom’s not sure he’s down with extending his time in Michigan.  They try to get married, but things happen to prevent that wedding from coming off, just before it’s scheduled to do so.

They are on a downhill path from there, until finally, they conclude it was not meant to be, and Tom returns to San Francisco.  What happens from here you will only learn if you watch the film, although I’m not sure I can recommend paying full price to see it.

Clearly the most and best laughs are in the final act, and it is here that The Five-Year Engagement manages to redeem itself a little.  The problem is that the laughs to get to this point which can be very funny were too few and far between to make it worth the wait.

That’s the basic problem with comedies, they need to make you laugh consistently, not occasionally.  Segel and Blunt are attractive, fun to watch, but the few good bits from the film’s trailer don’t make up for the long, unfunny sequences between.

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Brian Milinsky

Brian Milinsky has served in the military, been an FM D.J. and an award-winning radio news reporter/anchor/writer/editor. He is presently a screenwriter and currently lives in Los Angeles.

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