The Five Year Engagement

I found it extremely odd that 3 out of the last 13 movies I have reviewed have had Jason Segel in them. Jason is a likable goof, but I don’t seek out films that he’s in – I don’t even watch How I Met Your Mother. But it all came clear to me when I discovered Vulture’s very informative Map of the Comedy Zeitgeist that explains the hierarchy of hilarity – study it carefully, as it will keep you abreast of the next wave of funny that will be coming your way. Apparently Paul Rudd will be in all of them, and that is a good thing.

Segel is not your traditional leading man; he’s 6’4”, a little doughy around the middle and has lots of moles that make you want to connect them with a sharpie to see what shapes are hidden there. That’s the advantage to writing the screenplay as well; you can make the character as close to yourself as possible so no one else can play the part.

The Five Year Engagement would probably be filed in the rom-com category, but it starts where most of those movies end. Segel and Emily Blunt play Tom and Violet, a couple who get engaged on New Year’s Eve and seem like they are ready to live happily ever after. However, a position in the graduate dept at Berkley in San Francisco does not come through for Violet and they are forced to postpone the wedding and move to Ann Arbor so she can do her post doc work at the University of Michigan.

The fish out of water scenario is the main plot point as Tom struggles to find some kind of life in the frozen midwest. This movie is another prime example of how people in Hollywood view that vast wasteland known as “that area you fly over to get to that other coast.”  Tom becomes a Sasquatch, growing a disturbing beard and wearing huge sweaters knit by his new stay-at-home dad friend, Chris Parnell. He channels his inner Ted Nugent and starts hunting deer with a crossbow, and then uses antlers in all of his decorating. The film is funny but, come on Hollywood; it’s Ann Arbor, not the Alaskan tundra.

Most of the actors come from television sitcoms; besides Segel, the film includes Alison Brie (Community), Chris Pratt (Parks & Rec), Mindy Kaling (The Office), Chris Parnell (30 Rock) and Emily Blunt who is married to John Krasinski (The Office), so she counts, too. This gives the film a comfortable, lived in quality, as if these people were all your friends from college that you just started hanging out with again. Segel’s well-known Muppet fascination is paid homage to in a very funny adult conversation where Violet and her sister discuss getting knocked up in the voices of Elmo and Cookie Monster (“C is for condom!”)

The pace was a little slow as the film ambles through the five years, but I still found the movie charming and entertaining. I’ve really liked all three Jason Segel films that I’ve reviewed, including Forgetting Sarah Marshall which also features most of the performers listed on the Map of Comedy Zeitgist. If every movie made in the next ten years is going to star all these comedians, I’d like to make two requests: 1. get some more women in there, and 2. quit dissing the mid-west. We can be funny, too!

Barf Bag rating: ZERO BAGS  Nothing to worry about here, move along.

Coming Next: The Avengers! Can this film possibly live up to the expectations I have in my mind? Probably not, because all my fantasies seem to involve Thor naked, and he seems pretty armored up in the previews.
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