The Five-Year Engagement

Emily Blunt and Jason Segel find themselves madly in ambivalencePhoto: Universal Pictures
4 StarsWhy I Saw It: Smitten with Emily Blunt, becoming quite taken with Jason Segel, and simply adored Bridesmaids.
What I Thought: Deceptively stellar performances turn a potentially vapid or moronic script into an unabashed gem.

The Five-Year Engagement. Dir. Nicholas Stoller. Perf. Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Jacki Weaver, David Paymer, Brian Posehn, Mindy Kaling, Randall Park, Kevin Hart, Chris Parnell. Universal Pictures, 2012.

A devoted couple’s engagement suffers delay and complication when they move to a city in which her career flourishes… but his flounders.

Comedy fans, take note: the inevitable comparisons to Bridesmaids are justified.

Though the title’s lazy and the script on its face could easily go vapid or moronic, superb direction and deceptively stellar performances turn The Five-Year Engagement into an unabashed gem.

Immature enough to be silly yet grown-up enough not to be inane, it charms in perfect balance. Bawdy enough to appeal to one’s inner bad boy/girl, yet relational enough to appeal to our honest appreciation of love.

Though arguably slow to organize into conflict, it never bores and we’re amply entertained in the meantime by those surrounding our heroes ~ and when things do kick in they do so with great cleverness and hilarity. Such fun it is that amidst great proceedings related to Chewbacca tableware and potato salad seduction, the primary wrangling is that of coordinating two highly accomplished professional lives (and vice versa!).

Much comparison is being made to last year’s mega-successful Bridesmaids, and with good reason. A longstanding relationship imbalanced by circumstance, an array of well-enough-meaning cohorts who exacerbate rather than ease the conundrum, a truth-teller or two, an examination of one’s choices, and of course, a wedding (maybe… probably… hmm…). And as with Bridesmaids, The Five-Year Engagement‘s success credits squarely to its visuals and the strength of its players. Lose either, and the film founders.

No mere retread, however, The Five-Year Engagement owns its own space. Where does cooperation become compromise? How much can one ask before it becomes too much? How to regroup ~ can one regroup ~ upon realizing life decisions have been based on imperfect information? How does one properly secure a dead deer to the roof of a sedan?

Jason Segel and Emily Blunt as our engaged couple carry the proceedings with a lovely chemistry (think a good-naturedly R-rated version of Hanks and Ryan), upheld by Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, and an array of actors so well-carried they amount to an ensemble cast despite moderate, even minimal, screen time. (And kudos also to the stuntmen and Ifans’ double; priceless.)

Michigrants will have a great time with the Ann Arbor seasonal settings and locale, including the legendary Zingerman’s Deli. Those homesick (and Houstonian deli fans in general) should check out Kahn’s in Rice Village and Kenny & Ziggy’s in the Galleria area. (And remember Alfred’s? >sigh< So miss it…)

PS for the drive home ~ fyi, the Shipley’s Donuts on Westheimer between Dairy Ashford & Kirkwood offers a 24/7 drive-thru, freshness guaranteed…

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