Starring: Jason Segal, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”)
Written by: Jason Segal (“The Muppets”) and Nicholas Stoller (“The Muppets”)
Ever since “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” became a hit in 2005, the influence of its director Judd Apatow has been felt in nearly every comedy Hollywood has released since. The raunchy dialogue, the nudity, and the themes of male sentimentality have become a bankable style, used by Apatow proteges and copycats alike.
“The Five-Year Engagement” is the latest vulgar romantic comedy from the Apatow-backed duo of director/writer Nicholas Stoller and writer/star Jason Segal, previously responsible for “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which itself was responsible for introducing most of the world to Jason Segal’s penis. This time Segal stars as Tom, an affable San Francisco sous chef who opens the film nervously bumbling his way toward proposing to girlfriend Violet (Emily Blunt) by way of a sweetly amateurish skit. With their engagement official, Tom and Violet start to feel the pressure from both sides of the family to marry as soon as possible. However, as it sometimes does, life gets in the way: Violet lands a university job in Michigan, and a reluctantly supportive Tom travels halfway across the country with her, agreeing to postpone their wedding plans while they adjust to life in a new town.
As with the rest of the films producer Apatow has a hand in, the story in “The Five-Year Engagement” is in no particular hurry to unfold. Writers Segal and Stoller take their time, stocking the edges of the story with hilarious minor characters, including the scene-stealing couple played by Chris Pratt and Alison Brie. Director Stoller invites other comedic ringers like Chris Parnell, Brian Posehn, Mindy Kaling, and Kevin Hart to swing by for extended amounts of time just to hang out instead of actually advancing the main plot in any way. The result is a shaggy film that fits squarely in the Apatow/Segal/Stoller brand yet feels like a run-of-the-mill broad romantic comedy at the same time.
With “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Segal and Stoller made a romantic comedy for young men, one wherein the well-meaning man-child was done wrong by an indifferent, uncaring woman. “The Five-Year Engagement” seems to represent an effort to appeal to both men and women, with Segal’s well-meaning man-child being equally responsible for the highs and lows of his relationship with a Blunt’s caring, emotionally-conflicted career woman. At times, though, Segal and Stoller end up outside their comfort zone, littering the plot with threadbare romantic comedy tropes like a fanciful stunt wedding and the rakish older professor (Rhys Ifans) whose ill intentions can be seen coming miles away. But Segal and Stoller still realize the inherent hilarity in seeing Segal’s bare ass, so at least they haven’t forgotten where they came from.