Trailer Truth: Do the Ads Help or Hurt 'The Five-Year Engagement'?

Trailer Truth: Do the Ads Help or Hurt 'The Five-Year Engagement'?

Apr 27, 2012

I never watch a trailer until after I’ve seen the movie, and I also attempt to avoid as much news as possible. Then I compare what I knew, to what you knew. Let’s find out if what we see in the trailer is what we get, and if there is any advantage to going in fresh. (There will be spoilers.)


What I Knew Before: Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. Sometimes that's enough. For a romantic comedy, it's absolutely plenty, right? What kills me is I know I'm forgetting someone here. Maybe April (Aubrey Plaza) from Parks & Recreation is in it. Man, my memory is bad. Which makes it perfect for this column. I did catch Segel on The Late Show with David Letterman (skipping the movie clip of course). He talked about his fluctuating weight. I can completely and unequivocally vouch for Segel's up and down pounds as I recently watched six seasons of How I Met Your Mother in one month. Perhaps most importantly, the title Five-Year Engagement is grammatically correct. There are plenty of critics (and retired English teachers) who cringed anytime they had to read The 40 Year-Old Virgin.

What I Knew After: It's Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) not Plaza. That's actually a step up, but she's not the only name in this movie. We've got Chris Pratt, Rhys Ifans, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Chris Parnell, Brian Posehn, Jacki Weaver and a slew of recognizable faces. It's directed by Nicholas Stoller, which means it's a re-teaming of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. That's my most re-watched in the Apatow Family Tree of romantic comedies. So, what's not to love about this film? The length. I've never minded how long all of the others are, but this slow engagement is pretty painful. It's actually more of a slow break-up following in the shoes of Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston in The Break-Up. The comedy doesn't come from conversation or real-life situations, but instead it's the wacky variety. I really like Segel/Blunt/Pratt/Brie, but didn't love them in this. The trailer should definitely focus on the huge, recognizable cast. I'll be really curious to see what the marketing team decides is the film's "funniest" moments to insert in the trailer. Blunt and Brie doing Elmo and Cookie Monster have to be in there, right?

What You Knew: "Violet, will you marry me?" Just like the film, we start with the proposal. Onscreen: THE ENGAGEMENT. Pratt gives his awkward toast at the engagement party. Does any man out there actually still bring up past lovers during toasts? Now we're off to Michigan, which means Blunt has to give up some good sex. Onscreen: THE TWO-YEAR ENGAGEMENT. Wacky things happen because it's cold. The mother-in-law gives a recommended guest list of 600, which is not in the movie. Blunt gets a promotion and they're sticking around in Michigan. Onscreen: THE FOUR-YEAR ENGAGEMENT. Next, there's a treadmill joke (also not in the trailer). Brie finally makes an appearance at the 1:44 mark of the trailer. Blunt makes a sweet speech to Segel about problems and marriage, then Blunt gets hit by a wacky car door. Weaver plays Blunt's mother and wonders when the wedding will happen, along with some grandparent death. What's the kicker? A cute little kid shooting a crossbow into Blunt's leg.

Trailer Truth: There should be one rule with romantic comedy trailers — don't show the final speech. After all, 99 percent of this genre ends with the couple getting together, right? We know that much, so at least keep the how/why a secret. The Five-Year Engagement gives you some of the final speech, but doesn't show the event that follows. Also, I counted three scenes that didn't make the final cut of the film. I realize this sometimes happens with the marketing department getting footage before the final cut is ready, but with this movie it actually points to a problem. There feels like a complete lack of editing. Not only is the running time too much for the subject matter (a slow break-up), but there isn't much flow to this five to seven year period. The most interesting moment in the trailer comes at the 2:05 mark when Segel is wearing an apron with a man covered with a Speedo. In the movie, there's no Speedo, which means either there are two aprons or someone had to do some digital work.

The trailer never focuses on the cast, heck Ifans doesn't even get one second and he might have the third most screen time in the film. A question might have entered your mind while watching the trailer, and it's this: What does living in Michigan for a couple of years have to do with a couple not getting married? After seeing the film, you'll still have that same question.

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