Like a delectable meal that goes on too long, “The Five-Year Engagement” continues past gratification to overindulgence. It’s a very good movie. If a tough editor trimmed it from 124 minutes to 90, it would be wonderful.
One of the main reasons why Judd Apatow has become a brand name in entertainment is that he produces movies that are very, very funny while featuring characters that resemble regular human beings.
His latest production, starring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, concerns two imperfect, exasperating, well-intentioned ordinary people who trip themselves up on a daily basis. They’re a lot like what most of us see in the mirror, In “The Five-Year Engagement,” Segel plays Tom, a cuddly, talented assistant chef at a swank San Francisco restaurant. He’s had quite a run of romantic luck — the film slyly implies that a heterosexual guy there can have a Hefnerian love life even if he looks like Jason Segel.
All that is behind him, though, because he has met his one true love. Blunt plays Violet, an English psychology grad with ambitions for post-doctoral work, a faculty position and tons of kids.
Seasons pass, years pass, Tom and Violet enter an unexpected cooling-off period, and so does the film. Tom takes up hunting with a faculty husband (Chris Parnell of “SNL”), yielding several brilliantly executed sight gags that have a horrifying fascination. As his self-esteem deflates, he finds himself literally turning into another person by morphing into a poor man’s Grizzly Adams. Violet senses his unspoken bitterness and seeks consolation from a male colleague.
There’s humor in every beat of the story, and the laughs come from the characters’ humanity, not camp comedy. “The Five-Year Engagement” is vastly more ambitious than — and superior to — the star-stuffed romantic ensemble comedies that shtickmeister Garry Marshall has been turning out.