Judd Apatow-produced comedies are about as common as lazy Hollywood remakes these days, and are sometimes every bit as vacuous. But every now and then there’s a good one, one that catches you slightly off-guard, and The Five-Year Engagement – which stars Jason Segel and Emily Blunt as a couple whose compatibility is strained over the course of the titular protracted period – falls happily into that category.
This isn’t breaking new ground for the genre, but it does take a pleasingly mature approach to the obstacles placed in our protagonists’ path, generally refusing to play for cheap gags or to denigrate its own material with concessions to scatological humour – one vomit gag, which is actually quite funny, excepted.
The foundation of a good romantic comedy is obviously the leads, and Segel and Blunt are joyously likable here, from the latter’s faux-but-genuine excitement in a lovely opening proposal scene, to the former’s charming everyman shtick. Segel’s character takes a bit of a strange turn in the mid-section – a gag that never really works – but thankfully the film gives up on that idea pretty quickly. The supporting cast, meanwhile, which is pretty large, does a good job of filling in the gaps. Rhys Ifans puts in a good performance as a slightly slimy professor, and Chris Pratt, Alison Brie and Jackie Weaver all play their parts well. The writing, for which Segel takes a co-credit with Nicholas Stoller, is consistently funny, varying from relationship-based humour to sight gags and slapstick.
You could make a case for shearing a little baggage from the run time, but it’s hard to complain too much because the laughs keep coming. There are inevitably some gags which don’t quite hit the mark, and of course the film is still fairly predictable, despite not conforming to all the tropes of the genre, but as modern romantic comedies go this is streets ahead of most.