Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller are growing up and it really shows in their latest flick 'The Five-Year Engagement.' Picking up right where the average rom-com would end – with the struggling central couple ending up together – their new film shows what happens after that happy ending between the wedding proposal and the wedding itself, depicting all of the awful crap than couples must wade through before getting to the "happily ever after." Steering clear of cliches and sticking to real-life problems that will arise during marriage (to some degree), 'The Five-Year Engagement' is a brutally honest and unique portrayal of one couple giving love a fighting chance.
After being together for one great year, Tom (Segel) is ready to propose to Violet (Emily Blunt). At this phase in their lives, everything is nearly perfect, and getting married would only be fitting. Tom is a successful chef on the fast track to becoming a full-time head chef at a trendy and exclusive fine-dining joint; Violet is a bright and promising psychology student who has just completed post-grad schooling and is looking for work in a prestigious university's program. Their relationship is perfect.
The movie opens with Tom's awesome proposal, frequently cutting back and forth to their first meeting. I've got to be honest, with glances and the help of the beautiful Van Morrison track "Sweet Thing," 'The Five-Year Engagement' blows nearly every other romantic comedy out of the water with this one scene. After knowing Tom and Violet for less than four minutes, this flashback scene conveys the certainty that their love is as solid as a rock. Guys beware – you're about to fall in love with Emily Blunt ... again.
Starting with a hilarious engagement party, we watch Tom and Violet begin the wedding planning process, but it isn't long before the first wrench is thrown into the gears. Then another. Then Violet gets offered a position at a university thousands of miles away from their happy bay area lives. Tom is more than happy to support Violet in her career by making the move to the University of Michigan, but this drastic transition will cause him to leave behind his own dream job and put his happiness and, ultimately, their relationship to the test.
When I first screened 'The Five-Year Engagement,' although I fell in love with it, I could only give it a three-and-a-half star rating. There were a few things in particular that dragged down everything that worked in its favor. First, there is the film's 124-minute runtime. Like every other Judd Apatow production, this title runs too long – but count your lucky stars that it doesn't run as long as Apatow's own movies. The second negative is a quirky sub-plot in the second act that feels like it belongs in a "deleted scenes" menu on a Blu-ray than it does in a final cut. When Tom finally gets used to the Michigan lifestyle (presumably in year three), he starts to become like one of the odd locals (like Chris Parnell and Brain Posehn). This section of the film is funny and it conveys just how long they've been engaged, but it easily could have been trimmed out and helped the pacing flow better.
Upon viewing the film a second time, the positives seemed to be even stronger, so I felt inclined to give it a four-star rating. As I mentioned, Segel and Blunt are fantastic. If you didn't immediately love their characters in the opening scene, the rest of the movie would be completely wasted - but you do. In addition to their greatness, the supporting cast is brilliant. Chris Pratt and Alison Brie play two scene-stealing side characters. Even when appearing next to the Blunt and Segel, the Pratt/Brie duo owns the picture. Thanks to them, Rhys Ifans, Mindy Kaling, Randall Park, Kevin Hart and previously mentioned Parnell and Posehn, comedy is never an issue. The laughs keep on coming - but just because it's full of light moments, it doesn't mean that this is another fluffy feel-good rom-com. If anything, it's quite different from that. The drama that comes from the scenario is real, honest and, at times, quite heavy. It's refreshing to get this genuine feel from a studio flick when all you expect from studios are typical, familiar, and safe situations.
The positives greatly outweigh the negatives. It's no secret that I despise most romantic comedies, so the fact that I love 'The Five-Year Engagement' really says something. When one plays out like reality and not some average fairytale, I'm a sucker – and this is one of those. If you're in the mood for a funny and atypical romantic comedy, look no further and accept nothing less.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal has given 'The Five-Year Engagement' a stellar Blu-ray release. Included is a BD-50, a DVD copy and a code that unlocks both an Ultraviolet and a Digital Copy. The two-disc blue vortex keepcase slides vertically into a glossy and embossed cardboard keepcase that features both the Blunt/Segel and Pratt/Brie couples on the cover. The Blu-ray contains the 124-minute theatrical cut, as well as a 131-minute extended cut. A large load of pre-menu content plays upon inserting the disc, but all can by bypassed by skipping straight through to the standard Universal menu. Those videos include a Universal 100-year anniversary vanity reel and trailers for 'Snow White and the Huntsman,' NBC's awful drama 'Smash,' some little girl's flick called 'American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars' and 'The Lorax' (why the last two trailers accompany this R-rated comedy is beyond me). The best part of the menu is the two-plus minute single take of Blunt and Segel dancing that runs in the background. Just like the movie itself, they are as charming as hell.
The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode of 'The Five-Year Engagement' is nearly flawless, but it doesn't do much to wow.
From the get-go, 'The Five-Year Enagagement' is exceptionally crisp and clear. Colorization is impressively vibrant. Black levels are deep and consistent, fleshtones are natural and lifelike (unless we're shown images of a frostbitten body). The only area in which it lacks is in details. Mind you, plenty of shots are captured with soap opera-esque soft focus, but even when the focus is sharp, the image could still be sharper.
Unlike some extended cuts, the added footage here carries the exact same quality as the theatrical. There isn't a hint of variance between the two. If the extended cut is the first exposure you're having with 'The Five-Year Engagement,' you'll never be able to tell what was added.
The only compression flaw to rear its head is aliasing, but it only shows up three times. At 25:20, Blunt's sweater begins to shimmer. At 47:15, her shirt does the same. And at 1:51:22, Segel's suit does it too. Bands, artifacts and noise are absent. Edge enhancement and DNR are not applied.
Just like the video quality, the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn't do much to impress. The mix is perfectly okay, but it doesn't shine.
The one noticeable flaw with this disc is its all around quiet nature – not as in a lack of sound, but a lowered master volume. I had to bump up the volume on this track to obtain my usual desired volume. No details are lost because of this and the higher volume doesn't cause any distortion, but it's worth noting.
Being a romantic comedy, there aren't countless scenes that offer astounding demo-worthy audio effects – but that doesn't mean this track isn't given a few moments to shine. During scenes of heightened environmental sounds, 'The Five-Year Engagement' excels. One scene set outdoors in the middle of a forest downpour places you under the storm. Rain drops splash around you. Bassy thunder effects make the room rumble. When Tom and Violet attend a ritzy cocktail party, the mix makes it sound like the pretentious guests are standing all around your own theater. Unfortunately, there aren't many scenes that warrant sounds as strong as these examples.
A good amount of the film's mood comes from its soundtrack. Music plays an integral part in conveying emotion and the way that it's mixed details its importance. You can always expect the music to be dynamically mixed throughout the channels.
Four of the following seven special features included on both the DVD and Blu-ray edition of the film are given an extended treatment for the Blu-ray. If you enjoy the typical Segel/Apatow special features, then you'll enjoy what this disc has to offer.
'The Five-Year Engagement' excels in many areas – as a comedy, a romantic comedy and as a "film." It's entertaining, heartfelt, well-acted, well-directed and very well written. It manages to feature a sticky sweet romance while maintaining the truths – as harsh as they may be – of real-life relationships. The strong positives outweigh the two negatives: an odd subplot and a long runtime. Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel (I wish the ads had branded 'The Five-Year Engagement' as being "From the Guy Who Gave You 'The Muppets'") show their maturity – not only in life and experience, but in writing and directing. The longer you've been in a relationship, the more you'll connect with this tale. The video and audio qualities aren't superb, but they're more than acceptable. If you love the movie, then you'll appreciate the 175+ minutes (not including the commentary) of special features. Do not be deterred by the fact that 'The Five-Year Engagement' is a romantic comedy at it's very core. It's one of the very best comedies of the year.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.