26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Segel and Especially Blunt Bring Easy Charm to an Apatovian Relationship Comedy,
This review is from: The Five-Year Engagement (DVD)
There is such a ramshackle charm to this 2012 romantic comedy that I think the term "Apatovian" seems appropriate to describe it since it most definitely feels like the same general creative team led by producer Judd Apatow that guided Knocked Up, Funny People, and Bridesmaids. All the ingredients of the successful Apatovian formula are here - likeable principal characters facing the unpredictability of life's events, the familiar challenges of maintaining relationships in a morass of doubt and temptation, the unexpected detours into graphic humor, the pool of scene-stealing comic actors, the slightly overlong running time (this one clocks in at 124 minutes). Directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), this particular one focuses on a young couple a year into their relationship - Tom Solomon, a talented sous-chef at a trendy San Francisco restaurant, and Violet Barnes, a psychology graduate student hoping to win a postdoctoral fellowship at Berkeley.
The movie opens with Tom popping the question on the bayside terrace of his restaurant and Violet responding affirmatively without hesitation. Thanks to the stars' easy charms, the characters are obviously quite compatible and in love. What happens from that point forward is less about formula and more about just life. Berkeley turns Violet down, but she eventually wins a fellowship in a two-year program at Michigan. Tom willingly gives up his much-sought-after job and moves cross-country with Violet to Ann Arbor. She thrives under the tutelage of the suspiciously charming Prof. Winton Childs amid her motley study group. Tom, on the other hand, flails mightily in trying to fit into his new surroundings, eventually landing a lowly job at a sandwich shop and turning into a grizzly-looking house-husband who takes up hobbies like deer hunting and sweater knitting.
While their dilemma doesn't represent new material to the big screen, the treatment of the subject - as co-written by Stoller and star Jason Segel - is uncommonly well handled with plenty of room for awkward moments filled with both humor and honest emotion. If the film drags, as it occasionally does in the last third, it's because they focus a little too liberally on the principals' relationships with the incidental characters. As Tom, Segel has improved considerably as a leading man since his gangly turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, bringing acuity to his character's increasing struggle between devotion and resentment. Emily Blunt brings a welcome softness and open awkwardness to her heretofore crystalline screen persona, and the two actors achieve a natural rapport that brings a centered relatability to their evolving characters. They are surrounded by a crack company of comic actors.
Chris Pratt (Parks & Recreation) brings goofball energy to Tom's wildly inappropriate chef colleague-turned-brother-in-law Alex, while Alison Brie (Mad Men) sports a convincing Brit accent and an off-kilter manner to her hilarious portrayal of Violet's impulsive sister Suzie. One of the film's funniest scenes involves Violet and Suzie having a tense discussion while speaking in the voices of Elmo and Cookie Monster in order to avoid alarming Suzie's daughter. As Childs, Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) brings the right level of smarminess to his erudite professor, while Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, and Randall Park play Violet's fellow PhD candidates with sharp jabs of humor. In a few memorably funny scenes, Brian Posehn plays the oddball sandwich shop owner and Chris Parnell is Tom's too-comfortable fellow house-husband. The movie wraps up on a somewhat pat note rather quickly, but it maintains its goodwill to the very last.