I’m not a big fan of “romantic comedies”. It seems just about all of them follow the same basic formula: Guy meets girl and often they are attracted immediately (in which case they are often involved with other girl/boyfriends) or initially hate/despise each other. Over the course of the movie, they realize they are meant for each other, but then in the later acts comes the “big split” and the couple go their separate ways and it seems love will lose out. But in the movie’s climax, something makes them realize they were meant for each other regardless of whatever problems they just went through, and the movie ends with the two in each other’s arms or at the altar and on their way to living happily ever after.
In the case of The Five-Year Engagement, much of that first section of of the story is truncated (though it does appear in flashbacks) as the movie starts with the proposal between Tom Solomon (Jason Segel) and Violet Barnes (Emily Blunt). She accepts, of course, and the film then proceeds to pull the couple through many obstacles on their way to the altar, including the inevitable split up and equally inevitable reconciliation and (believe it or not he says with more than a hint of sarcasm) climax at the altar.
Despite finding the whole romantic comedy formula rather obvious and not being a big fan of it, I don’t necessarily hate romantic comedies either. When the formula is really subverted, as in the case of the razor sharp Grosse Point Blank, it can be quite delightful.
But despite some genuinely hilarious bits (and there are quite a few) in The Five-Year Engagement, what ultimately does the film in is its waaaaaaay too long run time. Incredibly, the movie clocks in at just over two hours (124 minutes, according to IMDB) in length and, frankly, the screenplay by Jason Segel and director Nicholas Stoller needed a thorough going over and -yes- paring down. If not in the screenplay stage, then certainly in the editing phase. There were several scenes and sequences that could have easily been cut from the film without impacting the story in any noticeable way. Two of the more egregious ones involved Tom’s near-infidelity with a fellow worker which resulted in him losing a toe (don’t ask, but it was neither funny or pushed the plot forward in any big way) and Tom’s subsequent relationship with a much younger woman (ditto). No offense to either of the actresses involved in those sequences, but the film would have been perfectly fine without those -and a few other- scenes at all.
The bottom line is that there’s a perfectly good one and a half hour (at most!) romantic comedy hiding in the bloated two hour-plus The Five-Year Engagement.