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The Five Year Engagement' almost great

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Romantic comedy suffers from excess length

Ongoing Hollywood relationships are relatively rare, so it's interesting when a creative team reunites for another project. It's of particular interest when the previous undertaking was a strong one.

Judd Apatow, Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel came together in a big way with 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall,' a huge success both critically and commercially. So when 'The Five Year Engagement' came along getting the band back together, so to speak the level of anticipation was high. But sometimes these collaborations aren't meant to be recreated, and when they're forced, they usually wind up falling flat.

This one works. Well mostly works.

Tom (Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt, 'The Adjustment Bureau') have been dating for a year when they decide to get married. He works as a sous chef at a trendy San Francisco restaurant; she's a psychology graduate student holding out hope for Berkeley's PhD program. Berkeley rejects her, but she does receive an offer from the University of Michigan. It's a two-year commitment, but they decide to make the move to Ann Arbor.

Thus begins the lengthy engagement of the title.

The two of them settle into their new life in Michigan. Violet starts her research work while Tom searches for a job, winding up making sandwiches at a deli. While her star ascends, his seems to be fading. Their relationship founders, with Violet happy with her work and her advisor Dr. Childs (Rhys Ifans, 'Anonymous') while Tom struggles to find where he fits in this new place. The conflicts build as the two of them begin to question whether their lives are still going in the same direction.

This movie's biggest sin is simply its length. With a run time of over two hours, it feels overstuffed the kinds of worlds these filmmakers create simply aren't meant to last that long. That length results in a few sections of the film that feel a bit superfluous and serve no purpose but to muddy the waters.

That said, there's an hour and 40 minutes or so of pretty good movie here. A large part of that is due to the script (co-written by Segel and Stoller) along with the quality of the performances. Segel brings his usual slacker amiability and emotional underdevelopment to Tom (though it might be nice to see him stretch himself a little more one of these days). Blunt's Violet is sweet with just the right hint of weirdness.

The supporting cast is excellent; Chris Pratt ('Moneyball') and Alison Brie (TV's 'Community') are outstanding as Tom's best friend and Violet's sister, respectively. The pair consistently steal every scene they're in; the progression of their relationship might be even funnier than that of the lead couple. The quality of the ensemble as a whole is quite high.

'The Five Year Engagement' is a sweetly crude romantic comedy that addresses not finding love, but keeping it. With a pair of charming leads, an outstanding supporting cast and a quality script with some great lines and more emotional honesty than you might expect, this movie is really good. It's just 20 minutes too long to be excellent.

3 out of 5

Last modified on Thursday, 24 May 2012 13:47


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