If you own a lot of movies, think about those which offer any amount of deleted scenes. These tidbits offer unique insights into directions the film could have taken; watch the scenes from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Aliens and don't tell me those shouldn't have been included. But for the most part, deleted scenes end up on the cutting room floor for a reason: they drag down the story, or take it in a different direction that could ultimately lose audiences. That's the problem with The Five Year Engagement, a movie that doesn't know when to say when and ultimately loses audiences with both its weirdness and caravan of unnecessarily strange characters.
Engagement tells the story of Tom (Jason Segel, The Muppets) and Violet (Emily Blunt, The Adjustment Bureau), who decide to get married after meeting the previous New Years in San Francisco. Tom is a successful sous chef, while Violet is hoping to land a post-doctorate career in psychology in nearby Berkeley. But when she's offered a position at The University of Michigan, the couple postpones their wedding and moves to snowy Ann Arbor. This leads to a series of postponements that sees our likable couple grow very distant, with Tom working in a deli while Violet's career takes off under the supervision of Professor Winton Childs (Rhys Ifans, Anonymous). There's uncomfortable comedy thrown in along the way, forcing the audience to laugh only because exasperation seems so unprofessional. We witness grandparents dying, Tom losing his toe, Violet being shot with a crossbow, Tom growing giant sideburns, and the ever-present stale donuts serving as an overused analogy about love. There's also a strange assortment of characters who seem to serve no other purpose than to act as window dressing for Tom and Violet's situation. Most of them either come off as poorly-developed or totally unnecessary to the story.
What began as a funny slapstick affair turns into a torturous one, emphasized by a weird second act, as Tom begins lose it. He gains a lot of weight, serves hunted meats to his best friend and Violet's sister, and walks around the house in the bunny suit he wore when he first met Violet. These scenes aren't funny, they're uncomfortable. I can’t imagine how anyone would have thought this much tumult was necessary to the film’s 124-minute runtime (yes, it’s a 2 hour and 4-minute movie about almost getting married). Engagement is classic Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Year One, Fun With Dick and Jane), and that's not a good thing. Like so many of his productions, you have an excellent premise with terrific actors that soon turns into a disappointing affair that's too long, poorly edited, and needing a serious case of a weekend wedding in Vegas to cure.
Any funny, romantic chemistry between Blunt and Segel is lost around that Second Act, as Director Nicholas Stoller (Fun With Dick and Jane) fails to keep the story moving. In the end, he seems more content to let our actors ad-lib, hoping to land some juicy tidbit that ultimately should have been cut. While the end somewhat redeems itself with a unique twist, we just want to smack our duo for not getting married sooner. Near the film's beginning, Violet’s mother refers to marriage like being in Saving Private Ryan. That's how one feels as you watch The Five Year Engagement. The film is rated R for nudity (non-female), language, and sexual situations.
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