Published on April 27th, 2012 | by Louis0
Five-Year Engagement’s Ensemble Cast Elevates American Humor
What happens when you take the top dogs in American humor, slap them together into a sweet-but-realistic story of waffling love? You get one of the best comedies of the year so far. While it won’t win an Oscar for best picture, The Five-Year Engagement is charming, hilarious, and well worth seeing.
Over the past few years, American TV comedy has been going through a major growth spurt. First the British Office came stateside, Steve Carrell and John Krasinski injecting some humanity and warmth into the series’ discomfort-driven schtick. Then we had its clone Parks and Recreation, bringing in SNL superstar Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, a few Office regulars, and a few new faces for a sweet, awkward story about one woman with a golden heart and an incompetent department. Meanwhile, How I Met Your Mother and Community proved that laugh track comedies weren’t dead- Neil Patrick Harris, multi-season story arcs, and genuine emotion drove a genre I once loathed into the ‘respectable’ category.
The Five-Year Engagement’s ensemble cast draws heavily from this new world of good American TV. Jason Segel (How I Met) plays sous chef Tom, recently engaged, deeply in love, and very poor at expressing his feelings. When his wife Suzie (Allison Brie from Community) gets a teaching position in Michigan, the couple faces the trials and tribulations of long winters, predatory professors, a rough job market for Tom, and re-evaluating their roles in the relationship.
Honestly, the plot is not all that important to this movie- it’s just a framework for an hour and a half of quirky character sketches, observations on the dysfunctions of both sexes, slapstick, and potty humor. This cast is made of comedy pros, though, and the jokes and gags rarely fall flat. Sweet moments are interspersed with one-liners and lowbrow humor, and the pacing keeps it feeling fresh and out of the chick-flick/bro-flick mold. The actors playing the couple’s parents and other adults of the older generation are drawn from film rather than TV careers, and their slower, more measured (but still off-beat) personalities provide a nice foil to the always-on frenzy of the main stars. We’ve finally moved past the dark days of American Pie and Scary Movie, to multidimensional characters, gags that occasionally skirt the gross-out line without actually crossing it, and a story that seems driven by the characters themselves rather than a Hollywood writing committee.
With ticket prices creeping past $12, I’m not sure I can sell the value of the big screen versus DVD- this movie’s charm would probably resonate just as well on a TV. That said, if you have a date night coming up, this might be a perfect film.