A rush of quick impressions hit me as I watched “The Five-Year Engagement,” the latest adult romantic comedy co-produced by Judd Apatow.
First, I’m still a bit surprised when so much crude sexual humor, profane language and outrageous situations can come out feeling so tender-hearted, often painfully truthful and, bottom line, romantic.
Oh, and funny. This is a funny movie, calling to mind other Apatow hits like “Knocked Up,” “Superbad” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” that share these traits.
Also, Jason Segel, who co-wrote this movie with director Nicholas Stoller (“Get Him to the Greek,” “The Muppets”), skillfully combines insightful, tender, funny and crude in his laid-back writing and acting like no other guy in movies I can think of right now.
And while “The Devil Wears Prada” made it clear what a gift Emily Blunt has for getting laughs, gross-out comedy is a different animal. Smart and versatile, Blunt can hit both the comedic and dramatic moments, sometimes in the same scene, in a way that elevates the material.
Blunt and Segel, of course, are the betrothed couple in “Five Year Engagement.”
The movie tracks their relationship from their first meeting across a crowded dance floor at a costume party through the five years and beyond.
He’s Tom, a gifted San Francisco chef. She’s Violet, an equally gifted psychology student with her eye on graduate research and university teaching.
Problems ensue when, shortly after their wince-inducing engagement party, she gets a graduate-studies offer at the University of Michigan.
Somebody’s career is going to have to give, and Tom willingly steps up.
But he’s not quite prepared for what Michigan serves up: a lousy job, a quirky bunch of grad students Violet works with, temptations to stray at both their workplaces. There’s also a fellow faculty husband (Chris Parnell) who compulsively knits and bow-hunts.
And snow. Lots of snow.
Meanwhile, a combination of family crises, job crises and Tom-Violet relationship crises keep putting off that wedding. That includes Tom’s brother impregnating and marrying Violet’s sister then taking the chef job Tom wanted back in San Francisco.
Chris Pratt makes an inspired comedic sidekick as Tom’s brother, and clever casting extends to the grad students, Mimi Kennedy and David Paymer as Tom’s parents, Lauren Weedman as Tom’s lesbian chef boss and Rhys Ifans as Violet’s quirky professor.
The setup is a tad slow, and a few snips in the editing room would boost the pacing throughout. But the movie balances male and female points of view, and the chemistry between Blunt and Segel make it easy to overlook the flaws.
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