Is it a coincidence that NBC Universal's goofy and charming new rom-com "The Five-Year Engagement" is studded with actors from its Thursday-night lineup? Even "30 Rock" boss Jack Donaghy couldn't come up with a better plan.
Emily Blunt and Jason Segel are the stars, of course, as you can see from the ads featuring their enormous(ly lovely) faces on billboards, buses, and bus stops everywhere. Over the course of the movie's 124 minutes, viewers soon find themselves treated to appearances by some of the funniest young actors on the scene.
Alison Brie ("Community") is adorable as Suzie, the little sister of Violet (Blunt). Brie has a sweet British accent and, after a rather boozy rehearsal dinner, hooks up with Alex (Chris Pratt, of "Parks and Rec"), who is Tom (Segel)'s slacker best friend. It's a match made in bizarro land, but somehow it works., and Violet's little sister beats her to the altar and to the delivery room. Brie and Blunt share some fantastic scenes together, and it's cool to see Pratt given a few serious moments along with the shenanigans we know and love him for.
Meanwhile, as Violet and Tom shake up their lives so Violet can pursue her post-doc work at the University of Michigan, they meet more people played by NBC regulars. The amazing Mindy Kaling ("The Office") shows up as Violet's colleague Vaneetha at the University of Michigan, while Chris Parnell ("30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live") shares some of Tom's pain as Bill, the spouse of another graduate student; Bill turns to hunting and terrible knitting projects to keep himself busy while his wife pursues her degree. Former "SNL" star Molly Shannon also appears as a sadistic chef who just wants Tom to chop some onions for her.
Of course, it would be foolish not to point out that these are some of the hottest names in comedy right now, both as writers and actors, and that the film industry is increasingly competing with TV for audience eyeballs. Working on a TV show is no longer seen as slumming it compared to movies, and in fact, TV can offer stars of all ages juicer and more interesting roles than might otherwise be available in the film industry. Perhaps it's just synergy, as Jack Donaghy might say, that the ripest and most vibrant writers and actors can dip into both mediums, and that NBC is lucky enough to have a roster of Thursday night shows with casts whose names you're just as likely to see at Sundance as on your DVR.
Also Check Out: High-Five! Here's 5 "Five-Year Engagement" Clips
NBC's Thursday-night stars have been showing up in other movies, as well. Nick Offerman, the man behind Nick Swanson's expressive moustache on "Parks and Recreation," has had some memorable parts in recent movies like "21 Jump Street" and "Casa de mi Padre," as well as a bigger role in the Sundance drama "Smashed" and Diablo Cody's upcoming film "Lamb of God." Rashida Jones has been jumping from the small screen to the big screen for years with roles in "The Office" and "Parks and Rec," and movies like "I Love You, Man," "Friends with Benefits," "The Muppet Movie," and "Celeste and Jesse Forever," which she cowrote.
Aubrey Plaza, who plays the one-liner machine April Ludgate on "Parks and Rec," appeared in "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," "Funny People" and "Damsels in Distress." Her first real starring role is in the upcoming film "Safety Not Guaranteed" with Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson ("New Girl"). And, of course, there's Adam Scott, who's won the hearts of not only Leslie Knope but also the indie crowd with parts in "Party Down," "Our Idiot Brother," "Friends with Kids" and the upcoming black-hearted comedy "Bachelorette." (Real fans of Adam Scott will remember him as the jerky brother in "Step Brothers" who leads his family in an a capella rendition of "Sweet Child o' Mine.")
And that's just "Parks and Rec"! Steve Carell was a movie star in his own right before joining "The Office," and although they haven't quite broken through into film the same way as some of the folks we've mentioned, "Office" actor Ellie Kemper showed up in "Bridesmaids" and "21 Jump Street," Craig Robinson is an Apatow staple ("Knocked Up," "Walk Hard," "Pineapple Express," "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"), John Krasinski prayed for a "Big Miracle" and was Kate Hudson's shoulder to cry on in "Something Borrowed," and Ed Helms won't ever get over his "Hangover" -- he's filming "The Hangover Part III" -- but also appeared in the acclaimed indie "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" earlier this year.
On the "Community" front, Joel McHale follows small roles in a couple of 2011 comedic misfires ("The Big Year" and "What's Your Number?") with Seth MacFarlane's "Ted," which is quickly shaping up to be summer's must anticipated laugher. You can also catch Gillian Jacobs opposite Steve Carell and Keira Knightley in June's "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" (not to mention four upcoming other big-screen projects), while Donald Glover ("The To-Do List"), Yvette Nicole Brown ("Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters") and Danny Pudi also have high-profile projects in the works.
Most of "30 Rock's" ensemble is already well versed in moviedom, but hardly a month goes by where we don't see someone like Jack McBrayer ("A Thousand Words"), Katrina Bowden ("American Reunion") or Scott Adsit ("Arthur") turn up in a new comedy.
It's like falling into a Judd Apatow k-hole, folks. Leave it to the experts to dissect this stuff, okay? In the meantime, sit back, relax, and witness Tom and Violet's attempt to get married, whether in five years or in 50 (no, that's not a spoiler). If you're a fan of NBC's beloved Thursday night lineup, it's time well spent with some of your favorite funny people.