Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) dir. Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Jason Segel, Kristin Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill
Judd Apatow has is his own cottage industry. He created two cult youth comedy TV series in the 90’s/00’s (“Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared”), from which he developed the talent of the writers, directors and actors who are working on his feature films today. His formula, both on camera and behind it, is a well-oiled machine, and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is his latest soon-to-be hit comedy.
This time Apatow has produced a script from Jason Segel (the stoner roomie in “Knocked Up” and Marshall in “How I Met Your Mother”), who also stars. Jason plays Peter Bretter who has just been dumped by his longtime and beloved girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell from “Veronica Mars”). Over time he has taken his relationship for granted and regressed into a pathetic lazy slob, and so he employs his conservative step-brother (Bill Hader) to help him back into the singles scene. It actually works, and he manages to get laid a few times, but without the passion he’s still a broken man. So Peter decides to take a vacation to Hawaii to drown out his sorrows.
Low and behold, Sarah is vacationing at the same resort, but with her new obnoxious Brit-rocker boyfriend Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Peter continues to pathetically pine after Sarah until his lovely hotel clerk, Rachel (Mila Kunis), starts showing interest in him. A new relationship blossoms, which also starts a competition between the two ex-lovebirds.
The film takes at least a third of the film to really find its grove. Peter’s character is set up to be like Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up” – a lazy man-child slob who eat Fruit Loops out of a salad tumbler. Peter is also a music composer for a hit CSI-like TV show – a career which requires much dedication, perseverance and talent. This disconnect was distracting. And though some of the gags hit it’s mark just as many fall flat.
The film picks up steam once Peter arrives in Hawaii. Integral to romantic comedies are the supporting characters. In Hawaii, we are treated to at least half a dozen characters who steal scenes all over the place. There’s Jack McBrayer (“30 Rock”) who plays a newlywed bible thumper who’s learning the ropes in bed; Paul Rudd is hilarious as laidback communication-deficient surf instructor, Jonah Hill plays a pathetic bus-boy with a man-crush on Sarah’s boyfriend Aldous Snow. In fact, Aldous becomes the real discovery in the film. He’s played by comedian Russell Brand – a TV star in Britain who recently hosted the Brit Awards. What first seemed like a stereotypically-written character became the major scene-stealer. Brand doesn’t just deliver a British accent, he develops his character into a lovable ego-maniac.
The film scores because it’s has a good heart and characters we learn to love and care about. Though Segel properly wraps up his subplots and character arcs, the film never feels like a template film. It sails way over most other comedies of its kind – ie. those recent Farrelly Bros. failuresSince it’s more comedy than romance we are saved the sappiness of that genre.
I’ll have to forgive the atrocious title which, by its very nature, lumps it in with other forgettable three word comedy titles with ‘ing’ in the first word. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” will be released in mid April, which, by opening before summer, means it likely won’t do “Superbad’s” or “Knocked Up’s” business, but with little competition before the May blockbusters hit, the film stands a good chance of being a modest surprise hit. Enjoy.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” will be out in theatres April 18 from Universal Pictures.