Judd Apatow, Hollywood's godfather of raunchy and sophisticated humor, is responsible for producing last year's breakout comedy "Bridesmaids." So it's no surprise that this year's best bet to succeed the wedding-centered laughfest is "The Five-Year Engagement," yet another marriage-minded, Apatow-produced movie.
Written by Jason Segel and his screenwriting partner Nicholas Stoller, who also directed, "The Five-Year Engagement" follows Tom (Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt), a San Francisco couple whose engagement is postponed again and again when Violet is offered a postdoctorate fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The plot might sound like dozens of stereotypical rom-coms, but here are five reasons "The Five-Year Engagement" could be this year's "Bridesmaids."
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Perfect Chemistry: There's no accounting for which actors will sizzle on screen and which will just fizzle. Married actors can turn out to be duds, while actors known to dislike each other can bring the heat on camera. In the case of Segel and Blunt, they're off-screen friends who make fabulous on-screen lovers. There's an obvious ease and tenderness that obviously stems from their real-life relationship, making Tom and Violet believable lovers who can be goofy as often as they can get it on. Segel wrote the role of Violet with Blunt in mind, and it shows. Blunt positively glows when she's with Segel.
Awesome Supporting Actors: "Bridesmaids" had Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd, and Maya Rudolph to play off Kristen Wiig's laugh-aloud protagonist (and in many cases steal the best lines), and "The Five-Year Engagement" has an equally as impressive supporting cast, particularly Alison Brie and Chris Pratt. The NBC sitcom regulars give such standout performances (particularly Brie and her surprisingly spot-on English -- and Elmo! -- accent), they should graduate from primetime players to leading-role stars as soon as possible. Hopefully Apatow already has something in the works with them.
"Saturday Night Live" alum Chris Parnell and standup Brian Posehn are also priceless as Tom's hunting and drinking amigos. There isn't a weak spot in the large cast.
Hilariously Sex: A hallmark of any Apatow protege's films is a frank and funny approach to sex. Even though Segel is good pals with his lovely costar's husband, John Krasinski (or perhaps because he's a personal friend), there's a lot of sexytime between Tom and Violet during their ridiculously long engagement. As in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Bridesmaids," the sex scenes offer some memorable laughs, such as the first and funniest fake guy orgasm; a long and exhausting night of May-December lovemaking (let's just say someone can't keep up with his much younger and more enthusiastic lover); and a lot of giggle-worthy pillow talk and, ahem, instructions.
Girl Power: Critics (like Katherine Heigl) have slammed contemporary comedies for marginalizing female characters, but projects like "Bridesmaids" proved (as if it were ever really a question) that women can be every bit as funny as their male counterparts. "The Five-Year Engagement" continues to highlight the hilarity of actresses like Blunt, Brie, Mindy Kaling -- who plays Violet's nosy psych-department colleague -- and even the two moms, Mimi Kennedy and Jackie Weaver. The women in this movie don't play second fiddle to the men; Segel and Stoller weren't stingy when it came to distributing the laughs. Brie just has to open her mouth for the audience to crack up -- we swear it.
How Sweet It Is: Here's the thing that makes comedies like "Bridesmaids" and "The Five-Year Engagement" work so well. In addition to all of the raunchy sex jokes, the penis puns, the bodily fluid gags, and the whip-smart writing, there's also an incredibly sweet message about friendship and love, whether it's between lifelong BFFs or an on-again, off-again couple like Tom and Violet. The humor has heart. Tom and Violet's romance is long and muddled with obstacles, like Harry and Sally's. And when the central characters finally, finally exchange their "I Dos," it will bring not a laugh but a huge smile to your face.