Ain’t love grand?
Special to Action
“The Five-Year Engagement” sets out to explore the theme of self-sacrifice as it relates to romantic love.
The film begins by making its case for a pair of lovebirds who meet-cute at a New Year’s Eve costume party. Tom (Jason Segel), outfitted in a pink bunny suit, spots Violet (Emily Blunt), costumed in a Princess Di get-up that telegraphs her British origins. The following New Year’s Eve, Tom bungles his ultraromantic proposal, but the effort wins Violet’s acceptance while introducing us to Tom’s doofus coworker Alex (Chris Pratt), and to his unhinged boss (Lauren Weedman).
At the pair’s engagement party, marked by a half dozen congratulatory speeches that fall prey to unfunny gags, Violet’s drunken sister Suzie (Alison Brie) hooks up with Alex, and soon learns she is pregnant. Alex and Suzie’s rushed wedding delays Tom and Violet’s impending nuptials.
The next delay occurs after Violet accepts an offer of a two-year post-doc position at the University of Michigan in Ann Abor.
Tom’s agreement to come along is represented as a romantic gesture and major self-sacrifice, but seems instead to be a lucky escape from his crazed boss and idiot coworker turned brother-in-law.
Once in Michigan, we get a look at Violet’s work-life as a psychology professor’s research assistant. Her peers seem more in need of treatment than ready to evaluate the mental state of others – and while they are harmless enough, it’s anyone’s guess how they’ve gotten this far in academia. Measured by this yardstick, Violet is comparatively normal and of genius stature. Perhaps this explains why her experiment – one involving stale doughnuts and instant gratification – is selected for further research by Welch professor Swinton Childs (Rhys Ifans), who appears overly-intrigued with his latest hire.
Violet and Tom are genial enough, but their problems, based upon an overall lack of communication, fail to draw us in. Over drinks, Violet complains to her coworkers that Tom is failing to adjust, and she’s silly enough to heed their advice about her right to be selfish.
Tom finally lands a job making interesting sandwiches at an iconic, local deli. However, his new boss is a quieter, more menacing nut-case than was his superior in San Francisco.
The pair’s ensuing on-and-off-again wedding plans are subjected to Violet’s extended appointment and Tom’s effort to go “Michagander” (depicted as Jeremiah Johnson meets “My Strange Addiction”).
Who do we root for, and why should we care? These questions plague this misfiring comedy. A few sweet moments and cute ideas are sprinkled throughout “The Five-Year Engagement,” but were nearly two-and-a-half hours really necessary to argue that no matter how unhappy this couple is together, they’re twice as unhappy apart? While Violet’s parents were looking forward to the wedding, I was eagerly anticipating the finale.