Quick Movie Review: The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

five year engagementI had pretty high hopes for The Five-Year Engagement. I’m a big Jason Segel fan from the Freaks & Geeks days. He co-wrote this film with director Nicholas Stoller, the guys behind one of my favorite recent movies, The Muppets. Plus, you’ve got a cast packed with hilarious people like Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, David Paymer, Dakota Johnson, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart and Brian Posehn, all actors and comedians I like a lot. And yet, I was definitely left wanting after watching The Five-Year Engagement.

The movie follows Segel and Emily Blunt from the time they get engaged through their titular five-year engagement. It’s not that either one of them has particularly cold feet, but that life gets in the way. Blunt’s sister (Brie) has a kid with and gets married to Pratt, then Blunt gets a new job that takes them to Ann Arbor, Michigan (which is only about 45 minutes from my home town of Toledo!). Segel, a chef, kind of loses his mind while Blunt goes on with her life and he’s there spinning his wheels, having left a really great job back in San Francisco. Then things get pretty bad and I won’t get into the ending right now.

I have two problems with the movie. First off, it’s 124 minutes long which is too damn long for a comedy. I’m fully in the “90-100 minute” camp when it comes to movies that are supposed to make me laugh. My other problem is that it’s really, really, really hard to make the dissolution of a relationship entertaining and funny. It’s the kind of plot that usually works better in indie dramas or romantic comedies and it could have worked better here if about 20 minutes of the film had been cut. I love Dakota Johnson in Ben & Kate, but her character here is so obviously terrible that she could have been almost completely excised without losing anything of substance.

Stoller and Segel did a somewhat similar kind of movie with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but the key difference here is that Segel didn’t stay with the girl who did bad stuff to him. You’ve got to see all the warts of this relationship (and there are some huge, seeping ones) and you’re still supposed to be charmed by and like these people. It’s like knowing too much about your best couple friends, it’s hard to look at them the same way.

However, SPOILERS, the damn movie won me back with that charming ending. I mean, I wasn’t surprised that they got hitched, but the way they went about it was pretty fantastic. It doesn’t necessarily win me back, but it was well done. Really, I’d like to see a non-director’s cut of this movie, with big chunks chopped out and re-presented for my viewing pleasure. However, if that does happen, the editor needs to leave that part where Brie and Blunt have a relationship conversation while doing Elmo and Cookie Monster voices. That was fantastic.

Quick Movie Review: The Muppets (2011)

Back when I gave The Muppets Take Manhattan another watch (can’t believe that was TWO YEARS AGO!) I noted that most of my Muppet memories came from watching the Muppet Babies cartoons. I’ve realized since then that The Muppet Show was actually on before I was born, which is why I probably don’t remember it. I also don’t have memories of it being in any of the rerun blocks I fancied. So, when it came back in the late 90s as Muppets Tonight, I think I liked it, but didn’t have that nostalgic love (or maybe had something else to watch at that time, I remember seeing a few episodes, but not a lot, certainly not two seasons’ worth).

All of that is to say that I’m not a die-hard Muppets fan, though I believe I am now after watching the wonderful film released last year written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. The plot follows Segel whose brother Walter is a Muppet, though no one seems to notice. Segel takes his girlfriend Amy Adams on a trip to LA with Walter tagging along. While there, they take a tour of the old Muppets studio where Walter overhears Chris Cooper’s plan to buy the studio and destroy it to drill oil. He, Segel and Adams then start a campaign to get the gang back together so they can save the building making it essentially Blues Brothers with Muppets.

The Blues Brothers comparison is actually really apt now that I think about it because, while there are cartoony/unrealistic elements, there is also a real heart at the center of the proceedings. Neither group comes together again for their own benefit, but to help others (save an orphanage, remind people that comedy doesn’t need to be cynical). For a while, I found myself reacting negatively to silly humor, but since I’ve become a dad, I’ve realized that the most basic laughs come from the silly. Funny noises and voices? That’ll make a baby laugh. That’s pure. It doesn’t work for everything, but that branch of humor, when done without cynicism but with adult influences can be a wonderful thing to experience.

And that was the key to my enjoyment of the film. Sure, I was confused as to who some of the Muppets were (pretty much all of the non-Babies cast members), but I was never confused about the themes: family is important, love is important, friends are important and laughter is really important. Those are good things to remember.

Also, 80s Robot is my new favorite thing and needs his own movie. That is all.

Quick Movie Review: Get Him To The Greek (2010)

I haven’t been watching as many movies as I have in the rest of the year. That’s partly because I’ve been getting out of the house and going to the coffee shop more often than sitting around the house. I’ve also been watching some more TV and listening to podcasts or music while working. For those reasons, Get Him To The Greek has been sitting next to my DVD player for a few weeks which surprised me a bit because I fell in love with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the first movie to feature Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow character. As it is, I’m kind of glad that I held off because I didn’t like this movie nearly as much as it’s predecessor. The big difference between the two movies is that Forgetting had a lot of heart to it, while Greek tried shoehorning that kind of stuff in towards the end.

The general plot is that record company owner Sergio (Sean “Puffy” Combs) sends low level worker Aaron (Jonah Hill) to get Aldous Snow in England and take him, first to The Today Show in New York and then to the Greek, a club in LA. Aaron has a falling out with his girlfriend played by Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss before leaving and so he goes a bit crazy while out with the procrastinating and party loving Snow. There’s lots of good gags in the movie, from the Mars Volta joke to the “Not everyone cares” line to the kid who plays Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, but while Marshall felt more like a cohesive story about real characters, this felt more like a group of repertory players staging skits and trying to get as many jokes out as possible.

The movie’s not bad but it just didn’t live up to the expectations put into place by FSM. Brand and Hill did great in their roles, especially Hill who stepped out of his usual “loud asshole” role. Really, though, Combs steals the show and every scene he’s in. Yes, pretty much everything he says and does is funny because he is who is, but that kind of meta humor isn’t always bad. Combs loves Biggest Loser? Hilarious. Guys like TJ Miller, Aziz Ansari and Colm Meanie also do great in their smaller roles, but at the end of the day, the story feels secondary to the one liners.