The Trouble with Quibbles: The Five-Year Engagement

For their follow-up to The Muppets, writing team Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel return the realm of the raunchy romantic comedy with The Five-Year Engagement. With Stoller back in the directors chair, they deliver the story of Tom (Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt), a pair of star-crossed lovers who just can’t seem to make it down the aisle.

BRYAN: So, I’m pretty much a fan of most everything Apatow has produced lately, and I really like Jason Segel, but The Five-Year Engagement was a major letdown for me.

ADAM: A major letdown, really? What were you expecting?

BRYAN: To laugh.

ADAM: Ouch.

BRYAN: …and not be so bored.

ADAM: I laughed, though I was bored at times too. But, I got exactly what I expected from an Apatow production: a funny movie that stretches half an hour too long, going after some jokes that just don’t quite land right.

BRYAN: I can see that viewpoint, but I felt like there were more problems than just jokes not landing or going on for too long.

ADAM: For example?

BRYAN: For starters, I was disappointed that the thing keeping them from getting married was one thing, a stupid sitcom cliché of a thing, instead of many different things.

ADAM: But… it was many different things.

BRYAN: It got so bogged down in Michigan, and the film forces there to be a right and wrong person instead of just having regular life get in the way.

ADAM: Did we watch the same movie? All I saw was regular life getting in the way.

BRYAN: I guess I wanted it to be “Oh crap, now we have to move again” and “oh man, I need to go back to this place.”

ADAM: And I didn’t see that they needed to have one person be right and another be wrong, in fact, I was frustrated by the fact that it felt like the film needed them to both be wrong.

BRYAN: Well, if they were going to REALLY both be wrong, the ending would have been totally different. I kind of wish they went with the Broadcast News route.

ADAM: I’m not talking about the ending, I’m talking about the middle, **SPOILER** with the co-worker hook-ups.

BRYAN: Which was such a weird, unfunny scene. When it breaks from that and he’s in San Francisco, it was so weird I half expected it to be a dream sequence. None of that section worked for me, at all. With the toe, and the sex jokes, and what have you.

ADAM: Agreed. From the moment Tom hooks up with his co-worker up until his showing up in England, all that felt really muddled and kinda unnecessary. But, Tom hooking up with the co-worker really bothered me because it felt so much like reactionary writing… does that make sense?

BRYAN: Kinda? Totally unnecessary. No, what do you mean?

ADAM: Like, she did this, so clearly he must do that… basically just lazy writing.

BRYAN: Sitcom writing. No real exploration of the subject.

ADAM: I don’t think that’s fair to sitcoms.

BRYAN: Just, “wouldn’t it be funny if this happened?”

ADAM: No, not even that.

BRYAN: Especially since we had literally one scene with that person beforehand.

ADAM: It was repetitive. It hit the same beat in the same way. It didn’t add anything. And it wasn’t funny. A good sitcom writer would know better than to waste their time hitting the same beat in the same way.

BRYAN: Thing is, I think there is a sweet romantic film hidden in here. The romance stuff is pretty strong. I liked how they met, and I liked whenever the film was being sincere. But any chance they got, they paraded in secondary characters with no bearing on the main story to kill some time and be funny.

ADAM: Yeah, the film has this overall bloated feeling to it: too many side characters trying to stick too many jokes for too long. Now I’m getting repetitive.

BRYAN: They’re funny actors who I like, but they are so not needed.

ADAM: And they do have a lot of funny moments spread out through the film, but I just don’t want or need a rom-com epic.

BRYAN: I also really liked Rhys Ifans and that whole dynamic was nice until they turned his character into a douche for the last scene, cause god forbid a movie doesn’t have an antagonist.

ADAM: Yes, he was great. Love his and Jason Segel’s chase/fight scene. That was really funny.

BRYAN: But they had to have him insult her in the end. That killed him for me.

ADAM: Yeah, almost seemed like a completely different character.

BRYAN: **cough**Reshoots**cough**

ADAM: I think if this movie had been shorter, Alison Brie and Chris Pratt could have come dangerously close to stealing the show. They were both pretty hilarious, but it’s diluted by everything else.

BRYAN: They were good, but they weren’t handed much to do. I think I forgive 40-Year-Old Virgin and Bridesmaids for some of the same problems I have with this film because A) they’re funnier movies and B) when they stop for a side character joke it’s only for a moment and then it’s back to the story.

ADAM: Yes, both of those movies have better pacing.

BRYAN: So despite a strong cast and a few nice moments. This rom-com has too much muchness for its own good. GRADE: C-

ADAM: “Too much muchness,” what does that even mean?

BRYAN: I’m regrettably referencing Alice in Wonderland. You can slap me now.

ADAM: The Five-Year Engagement does have a great, funny cast, but at times it seems less like watching characters in a story and more like watching a bunch of comedians interrupting each other’s sets. Grade: C+

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