Director Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel first worked together on the short-lived television series "Undeclared," which was produced by Judd Apatow. They firmly established themselves in feature film with their smash-hit comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Though Stoller worked with Segel again on "The Muppets," he was only a writer and executive producer with James Bobin of "Flight of the Conchords" fame directing. "The Five-Year Engagement" is their first official follow-up to "Sarah Marshall" as they once again explore the volatile minefield that is the adult relationship.
"Five-Year Engagement" begins where most romantic comedies end with the proposal. Tom Solomon (Segel) is a successful sous chef making a name for himself in the trendy restaurant scene of San Francisco. He's been dating psychology student Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) for a year and pops the question during a romantic rooftop dinner with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. A wedding date is set and invitations are sent out, but things hit a snag when Violet gets accepted into the post-doctorate program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. They decide to move to the Wolverine State and postpone the nuptials until she receives her degree in two years.
Violet rises through the ranks of grad students after proposing an experiment to study self-control issues with stale donuts (an offshoot of the Stanford marshmallow experiment) that serves as an obvious metaphor. On the flip side, Tom has a miserable time dealing with the cold weather and lack of job prospects. He's stuck making sandwiches at a deli. The couple drifts further and further apart as the audience wonders whether or not these wacky kids will eventually tie the knot.
Of course, they do, which shouldn't come as a shock unless you've never seen a movie before. While the parts have been rearranged, the underlying spine of the film remains true to formula. As stated in the title, we know it will take Tom and Violet five years before they can enjoy wedded bliss. However, sometimes it's the journey that counts and not so much the destination. "The Five-Year Engagement" takes a meandering route towards the conclusion and falls into the trap of many Apatow productions by just being too long. The movie runs over two hours all while the story is crying out for a peppier pace.
Segel and Blunt have previously played romantic interests in the embarrassingly bad Jack Black vehicle, "Gulliver's Travels." Luckily, they get better material here and display an easy chemistry with each other. The script is even keeled and doesn't paint either one of them as the villain in the relationship. However, they are written rather blandly until the comedy is ratcheted up into slapstick realm. At one point, Tom descends into a self-pitying spiral to the point he's grown muttonchops and shuffles around in a bunny suit.
"Engagement" scores major points thanks to a supporting cast flush with talented performers. First and foremost are Chris Pratt as Tom's best friend, Alex, and Alison Brie as Violet's younger sister, Suzie. Their impulsive affair acts as a counterpoint to the cautious relationship of the protagonists. Pratt is the overgrown man-child that is the classic Apatow archetype, but he's a nice guy deep down and not nearly as dim as the character he plays on "Parks and Recreation." Though it's disconcerting to hear Brie speak with a British accent, she displays the same comedic gifts that have made her a hit on "Community." Pratt and Brie also have great chemistry together and it almost makes you wish the movie had been about them instead. Brie and Blunt participate in the picture's most inspired gag in which they argue in the voices of Elmo and Cookie Monster. Second place goes to a running joke where the passage of time is marked by the death of one of Violet's grandparents.
Another NBC alumnus Mindy Kaling shines as one of Violet's fellow grad students along with Kevin Hart, Randall Park, and Rhys Ifans as their professor. Some of the funniest lines come from Tom's new Michigan friends, Brian Posehn as a geeky co-worker with an encyclopedic knowledge of pickles and Chris Parnell as a domesticated husband teaches Tom the delights of deer hunting and knitting. Rounding out the ensemble are Academy Award nominee Jackie Weaver as Violet's mom, David Paymer & Mimi Kennedy as Tom's parents, and Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson & Melanie Griffith) as a young and sexy party girl. Plus, watch out for cameos by Kumail Nanjiani, Molly Shannon, and Tim Heidecker from "Tim & Eric's Awesome Show."
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is bright and cheerful with vivid colors and natural skin tones.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. You won't find a dynamic presentation, but the sound is solid with dialogue coming in crisp and clear.
First up is an audio commentary track with Nicholas Stoller, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, and producer Rodney Rothman. As usual, these sorts of tracks are casual and breezy as the speakers joke around and discuss various tidbits about the production.
The Making of The Five-Year Engagement (41:48) is a behind-the-scenes documentary that allows us to watch the filming of the movie from day one to the final wrap.
The Making of Gastrocule (5:07) focuses on a deleted scene in which Tom opens an experimental restaurant that fails to appeal to the simplistic tastes of a college town.
The Making of Turkey (5:01) is a featurette about another deleted scene in which Tom consumes psychedelic mushrooms and hallucinates that the turkey is talking to him. Brian Posehn provides the voice and trained in puppeteering for the scene.
Weird Winton (2:26) is a montage of ad-libs and alternate lines from Rhys Ifans as Prof. Winton Childs.
Gonorrhea Trouble (4:37) looks at a sequence that was deleted due to Emily Blunt's failure to maintain a straight face. Her bursting into frequent laughter makes this an amusing extra.
Top Chef Alex Elhauer (4:11) are mock clips from an episode of the reality competition series "Top Chef" with Chris Pratt in character serving as a guest judge.
A trademark of these Apatow releases are the Line-O-Rama featurettes, which cut together assorted ad-libs and alternate lines that landed on the cutting room floor. We get two of those along with a gag reel and a collection of deleted and extended scenes. Released as a combo pack, "Engagement" comes with a DVD and Digital Copy versions of the film.
"The Five-Year Engagement" could have benefited from some judicious editing and a quicker pace. Also, anyone thinking this will be as rambunctious as "Bridesmaids" may be in for a disappointment. Still, the winning cast and some humorous moments sprinkled throughout make it a notch above the standard rom-coms.