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The Independent Critic

Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Brian Posehn, Chris Parnell, Dakota Johnson, Jacki Weaver, David Paymer, Mindy Kaling, Rhys Ifans, Mimi Kennedy, Randall Park, Kevin Hart
Nicholas Stoller
Nicholas Stoller, Jason Segel
Rated R
124 Mins.
Universal Pictures

  • Theatrical and Unrated Versions of the Film
  • Feature Commentary: Featuring director/writer/producer Nicholas Stoller, producer Rodney Rothman, writer/star Jason Segel, and stars Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, and Alison Brie.
  • Deleted, Extended & Alternate Scenes
  • Gag Reel
  • Line-O-Rama
  • Experiment-O-Rama
  • Weird Winton: Marvel at Winton Child's bizarre chants, poses and other hilarious mannerisms, featuring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt and Rhys Ifans.

 "The Five-Year Engagement" Review 
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Perhaps the most surprising thing about a modestly naughty comedy with the Apatow name attached to it (as producer), is just heartfelt and authentic a film The Five-Year Engagement ends up being.

Apatow, of course, has always prized touches of sweetness amidst overwhelming raunch, but The Five-Year Engagement is really more the other way around - touches of raunch amidst overwhelming sweetness and heart. The film opens on the one-year anniversary of the first date of Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt), an anniversary that we quickly learn will also be the night when Tom and Violet become engaged. Tom is a chef in a leading San Francisco restaurant, while Violet is eyeing post-graduate work at her dream college of UC-Berkeley. Unfortunately, when the call comes in for Violet it's from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and suddenly the pending marriage of Tom and Violet experiences delay number one as Tom gives up his job and pending promotion to head chef at Clam Bar to follow Violet to Ann Arbor where he'll be resigned to being a glorified sandwich maker at Zingerman's while Violet becomes increasingly successful under the flirtatious guidance of Professor Winton Childs (a surprisingly restrained Rhys Ifans).

While it appears at first glance to be not much more than the last Apatow-inspired formulaic rom-com, there's actually much more working inside the brains, yes brains, of The Five-Year Engagement.

The Five-Year Engagement
is surprisingly effective at effectively but entertainingly delving into the hearts and minds of our two lead characters, Tom a man whose very sense of self-worth seems to have become challenged by his inability maintain what he perceives as the male role of provider in a relationship and Violet being a woman who is constantly questioning herself for having taken on that role in the relationship. The film becomes quite the character and, moreso than other rom-com's in recent history, an examination of the dynamics of contemporary relationships that impact both commitment and endurance.

Plus, it makes us laugh. A lot.

That can't be stressed enough. Despite being more thought-provoking than a good majority of romantic comedies, The Five-Year Engagement is also one of the funniest to hit theaters in quite awhile. It helps to have Segel and Blunt as your leads, both of whom exude just the right amounts of humor, heart and reflection. Segel, who co-wrote the script with Stoller, is particularly funny as his Tom's insecurities gain hold and he struggles to adapt to life in Ann Arbor. Segel's Tom becomes a grizzly looking dude who finds himself going on bromance-flavored hunting trips with a fellow faculty husband (Chris Parnell) and becoming an expert in all things venison related. Tom's disintegration of self-esteem is both gently probed and played for laughs, a difficult balance that Segel reveals perfectly.

While Blunt has certainly had some success with comedy, it's a bit of a surprise how effectively she pulls off this more raunchy and freestyle comedy. She's not exactly an Elizabeth Banks, but she seems to have nailed the tone that Katherine Heigl is shooting for but can never quite achieve. She's the perfect complement to Segel, who reportedly had to lose 30 pounds for the role in order to convincingly portray a guy who could actually snag a woman like Blunt (a stereotype that I don't particularly care for, but you get the point).

The two actually do have a terrific chemistry and they both do a nice job of portraying the struggles within commitment. The issue isn't really with why they continue to struggle to get married five years after their engagement, but how do they maintain a loving relationship while growing (or not growing) as individuals?

Alison Brie is a hoot as Blunt's far crazier sister who manages to get on the path to happiness much quicker. Brie incorporates an overwrought Brit accent that is funny just by listening to it and even funnier every time she speaks. There's one scene, in particular, where Brie and Blunt do a series of verbal jousts inspired by children's television that is absolutely inspired. Chris Pratt is similarly awesome as Tom's best bud, an inferior chef and slack who ends up with the Clam Bar gig after Tom leaves and who also ends up wed to none other than the aforementioned sister.

Rhys Ifans is surprisingly subdued as Professor Winton, an obvious letch of a dude from point one but Ifans wisely doesn't play him in such a way. Dakota Johnson is great as Audrey, a 23-year-old waitress with whom Tom works in Michigan and who ends up playing the Professor Winton role in Tom's life.

The Five-Year Engagement has enough of the gut-level laughs in place to please most of the Forgetting Sarah Marshall fans who will line up expecting to see the latest Apatow produced and Stoller co-written/directed naughty comedy. Yet, The Five-Year Engagement offers a more thoughtful and reflective comedy that still manages to never lose its humorous touch. This could have been the weekend that The Raven kicked off the early summer cinema season in style, but as Hollywood would have it The Five-Year Engagement may very well be the season's first "must see" film.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic