I'm generally a fan of the comedies produced by Judd Apatow. He has a pretty high hit rate with me so far, and I like the people he works with both behind and in front of the camera. Knowing this going in, and the fact that it looked like a lot of the subject matter mirrored my life in some way, I was pretty sure The Five Year Engagement was going to be right up my alley. I ended up disappointed.
The Five Year Engagement is the story of Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt), a couple who get engaged, but have to keep repeatedly pushing back their wedding whenever life gets in the way. The longer they wait, the harder things get, until they question whether they should get married at all. It's a good enough premise, and I like the leads, but I found the movie just really light on laughs.
It was a weird feeling for certain aspects of the story to really hit home for me on a personal level, even though I wasn't laughing a great deal. Hey look! They have to move to Michigan! I grew up in Michigan and they're making Michigan jokes! They move because Violet is working on her psychology doctorate, and he's miserable there. MY wife is working on her psychology doctorate. I moved with her from Chicago to Texas and, no, I don't like it here either. We didn't delay our wedding, though. This movie reflects my life a whole bunch, yet I still wasn't feeling it.
My biggest problem came in the section of the film set in Michigan, where a depressed Tom tries to make the best of his situation and throws himself into the Michigan way of living. He starts hunting deer almost obsessively and grows a funny beard. Once that happens, I found it hard to believe Tom as a character, because they push it all too far. And I take pride in my very durable suspension of disbelief.
It's not all bad, though. The characters are all quite likeable. Segel and Blunt are actually upstaged by Alison Brie and Chris Pratt, as Violet's sister and Tom's best friend, who hook up at the engagement party, and end up married and with children while Tom and Violet are stuck in purgatory. I could watch a whole movie about Brie and Pratt.
The Five Year Engagement was directed by Nicholas Stoller who cowrote it with Segel. The two of them typically make a great team. My favorite Apatow production is Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which they made together. They crafted such a likeable cast of three dimensional characters in that, that I even wanted to hang out with the ones I wasn't supposed to like. Segel also helped out with the hilariously vapid songs in Stoller's 2nd film, Get Him to the Greek, and they also cowrote last year's glorious and sincere love letter, The Muppets. I have no reason to think they won't make another great comedy together at some point, but this one didn't work for me.