The Five Year Engagement – Film Review

He sees her from across the room and his heartbeat quickens. He is a superhero bunny and she is Princess Diana. From their first glance they know they are destined to be together. They move toward each other and made awkward small talk; the kind of small talk that fills lovers of sappy romantic comedies with tingling joy. But then, you’re feeling all gooey inside as well? What is this sorcery, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt? How dare you use such convincing chemistry to sucker us into your make-believe love story! For shame! For entertaining and heart-warming shame!

Tom (Segel), a sous chef on the verge of a managerial promotion, and Violet (Blunt), a psychology graduate attempting to embark on her post-doctorate studies, are in a still-blossoming relationship that couldn’t be better after a clumsy but romantic marriage proposal. When Violet is offered a doctorate position in Michigan the pair uproot and postpone the wedding until they are happily settled once more. However, the move stunts Tom’s career and turns him into a begrudging househusband while Violet’s life becomes better every day. The Five Year Engagement then begins to explore identifiable relationship distresses, looking at outsiders’ opinions as well as the pair’s own as we watch Tom and Violet’s relationship fall slowly to pieces.

In a recent interview Jason Segel revealed that every time an actor is chosen for a part in a film he penned he goes back and rewrites the film completely (or any scene the character impacts, at least) to allow any actor to excel in their role. This method is certainly evident in The Five Year Engagement as just about every character, big or small, is wholly fleshed out and has a justified presence in the film. From the neighbourhood friend or begrudging mother to the old boss who appears in two scenes, everyone has a part in the film’s humour and overall impact. Particularly shining is Alison Brie as Violet’s overly dramatic sister, Suzie who steals every scene she appears in (in addition to having a more believable English accent than Emily Blunt herself) and definitely deserves a spin-off/sequel akin to Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s Get Him To The Greek or the upcoming This Is Forty (following side characters of The 40 Year Old Virgin).

Of course, fleshing out every character not only takes attention away from the film’s key figures (you will more than once wish that we were watching the story of some of the bench characters) but also lengthens the film by a pointlessly excessive amount. Whilst The Five Year Engagement stands at 125 minutes long, its primary plot should only last 80 minutes at best. We’re just lucky that Segel and the film’s director, Nicholas Stoller (dir. Forgetting Sarah Marshall) are talented enough to keep us somewhat absorbed through the numerous sketch show-like scenes that fill in the time between the actual plot.

The Five Year Engagement is one of those rare mainstream romantic comedies that has as much feeling as it does Hollywood fluff and is better for it. Although stretching it for time in terms of story, the varied likes of character’s pig fetishes, stale doughnut metaphors, and househusband knitting skills will keep you highly entertained. A definite Orange Wednesday occasion with your partner.*

*If you don’t have a partner it’s still hilarious to watch a relationship fall apart, no?
If anything, it is even more satisfying – Tim (single, not remotely bitter)

The Muppets – BlogalongaMuppets 7

Over 12 years since their last cinematic release, and over 30 years since The Muppet Show finished on the small screen, the Muppets have split up, their studios have fallen into disrepair and Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) wants to buy the land to drill for oil. Enter Walter (a puppet/Muppet?) and Gary (Jason Segel), a pair of brothers determined to help reunite the Muppets and raise the $10 million they need to save their studio. Given two hours of primetime TV to hold a telethon by a desperate studio exec (Rashida Jones), the gang have just days to put together a revival of The Muppet Show.

Amy Adams is also in the cast as Gary’s fiancée in a wholly redundant sub-plot about nothing much at all, but I’ll mostly be ignoring that part of the film. Other criticisms (let’s get them out of the way) include the fact that the premise of a telethon allows for a few too many brief celebrity cameos, and that some jokes are better in the set-up than the execution – the Muppet collecting montage is a prime example. The Muppets is also guilty of overusing green screen to get the Muppets in a variety of locations and doing things impossible for a puppet to do. I understand this can save time and money but it also takes away from the rustic charm of the Muppets.

Griping over.

At its heart The Muppets is one great big love letter to the Muppets. The film is a celebration of our favourite felt-based friends and acknowledges the TV and film heritage they have created. This is most evident in this instalment’s connections to 1979’s The Muppet Movie, not only is one song from this film reprised on-stage but the Standard Rich and Famous Contract, which the Muppets receive at the end of The Muppet Movie, serves as the Maguffin in The Muppets. This is roughly as intellectual as I can get.

Present but never overused is the standard Muppet meta-humour, the characters are aware that this is a film, and after the disappointment of Muppets from Space, the songs are back. And what amazing songs! Man or Muppet truly deserves to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. It is clear that Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords wrote the songs as they have that distinct Conchordian sound, and are all the better for it. My acid test for a musical is whether or not the songs are in my head the next day, and Man or Muppet was ringing loud and clear in my brain for the rest of the week. Job done.

There is so much to love about this film that the few flaws are easily forgiven and The Muppets ends up being a superior production to the early Muppet films it is paying tribute to. I left the cinema with a massive grin on my face, a song in my heart and a skip in my step. There was also a book in my bag, but this is unrelated.

The Muppets is a joy, made for the fans but surely just as enjoyable for the uninitiated.

Only one question remains about The Muppets, where the hell was Rizzo!?

Muppet Movie Ranking:
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
2. Muppet Treasure Island
3. The Muppets
4. The Muppets Take Manhattan
5. The Great Muppet Caper
6. The Muppet Movie
7. Muppets from Space