The Five-Year Engagement directed by Nicholas Stoller (Apatow Productions, R, 124 minutes)
Starring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, and Alison Brie.
What Makes Something Good?
Is a hot wing tasty if it is sufficiently spicy? Is a murder mystery novel good so long as the murder is mysterious? Is a comedy good if it’s funny?
My inability to answer this last question perfectly summarizes my thoughts on The Five-Year Engagement. Billed as a comedy, the movie executes; it is extremely funny. But is it good? I wish I knew.
Another Romantic Comedy
As a story, The Five-Year Engagementarises from the romantic comedy cookie-cutter-plotline:
- Couple meets.
- Couple experiences good times.
- Couple hits a rough patch.
- Couple works everything out.
In fact, on our way to theater, I mentioned to my wife, Tara, how we already knew the storyline since these movies fit the same mold consistently and without fail.
The High Point
The Five-Year Engagement begins with the apogee of the relationship between Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt) on a clear night in San Francisco. Somewhat awkwardly, Tom proposes to Violet on the one-year anniversary of their first meeting.
Upon affirmation of the proposal, the couple begins planning a wedding, only to find external circumstances push back the plans.
Tom’s best friend, Alex (Chris Pratt), impregnates and then marries Violet’s sister, Suzie (Alison). After canceling plans to accommodate the shotgun wedding, Violet receives word of her acceptance to the psychology program at the University of Michigan.
Admitting the discord a similar long-distance move for professional reasons conjured in her parent’s relationship, Violet worries how such a move will alter her relationship with Tom.
The Low Point
A sous chef and an emerging talent in the culinary industry, Tom isn’t thrilled with the move but recognizes the immense value of Violet’s opportunity. He also figures many culinary jobs will exist in Michigan.
While quitting his job, Tom’s plans begin to sour when he learns he was in line to become executive chef at a new fine dining restaurant. Nevertheless, Tom remains true to his word and ventures north to the land of ice and snow and no fine dining.
As Violet’s job blossoms on the campus of Michigan, Tom’s quality of life plummets as he recedes into a dead-end job. Tom and Violet’s relationship, in turn, begins to exhibit cracks.
The Five-Year Engagement then proceeds to unfold much like every other high-budget romantic comedy.
Does a Comedy Need Anything Beyond Humor?
So is The Five-Year Engagement a good movie? I’m not sure. It is very funny. I found myself laughing at dialogue on a minute-by-minute basis. But, my mind also thrives on uniquely engaging stories. Sadly, The Five-Year Engagement utilizes story as a method of joke telling instead of story as an intrinsic good.
My favorite comedies mix humor with inventive storytelling. I loved Little Miss Sunshine not only for the humor but also for the inventive plot and complex characters. The Five-Year Engagement, on the other hand, only succeeds at a surface level. For all intents and purposes, the story in The Five-Year Engagement is meaningless.
Even though the movie entertained, I find it hard to give The Five-Year Engagement high grades. If you want to laugh for a couple hours, check it out, but don’t expect any depth.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
How do you like your comedies? Are jokes enough or do you need a story?
Share your thoughts below.