How many more Freaks and Geeks you got in there Apatow?
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Notable Cast: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Liz Cackowski, Maria Thayer, Jack McBrayer, Taylor Wily, Davon McDonald, Steve Landesberg, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd
Meh. That was the word that kept popping into my head during Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The movie is a perfectly passable comedy, but not much else. Of course not all of the Apatow crew’s work can be perfect and they were bound to miss a beat at some point. The great thing about the standards raised by The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up is that a misfire from this group is still pretty funny even if it is disappointing. Yet one cannot help but feel that Forgetting Sarah Marshall was an elaborate way of hooking up the cast and crew with an all expense paid trip to Hawaii.
Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) travels to the beautiful island locale after being dumped by famous television star, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). Their five-year relationship surprisingly comes to an end when Sarah tells Peter she is seeing someone else: flavor of the month singer, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Peter is fully nude during the breakup in a bit that would have been much funnier if the previews had not beaten potential viewers over the head with that joke already. The scene is the first of many in which it was evident that the audience was waiting to laugh at something they had seen in the preview.
That would be a minor complaint if the film offered much beyond that, but it doesn’t really. Once Peter reaches Hawaii, he discovers that Sarah is on a romantic getaway with her new beau. Pitying Peter after his run-in with Sarah, hotel desk clerk Rachel Jansen (Mila Kunis) offers him an expensive suite on the house. Peter proceeds to spend his time there in a crying, drunken stupor which eventually wins over Rachel’s affections. The puppy-love that unfolds between the two is believable enough as Kunis plays up Rachel’s compassion rather than her pity for Peter and Segel’s turn as an oblivious doofus that at least two incredibly beautiful could fall for is entirely believable.
The trouble with the whole affair is that once Bell’s character is given some screen time and depth, one begins to feel sorry for her. Her argument for breaking up with Peter is wholly logical and it is easy to see that she too is having trouble forgetting Peter Bretter, even if she was cheating on him for a year before she finally called it off. In fact, the confused feelings between the two exes is the most interesting aspect of the story. It is easy to relate to Sarah’s hoping she made the right decision and Peter’s resolve to get over her rather than fall back into the old routine.
The truth that echoes throughout the comedy hybrid style that Apatow and company have created is, in actuality, the most appealing part of their productions. That fact becomes more evident with each obligatory shot of full-frontal male nudity and oral sex euphemism. While funny, most of that material is becoming tired and it is serves as a distraction from the heartfelt story the filmmakers are telling. Not to mention that the gags and side stories bloat the movie’s running time.
With the use of some editing and restraint Forgetting Sarah Marshall would be a breezy, emotional film. As it stands it is a dragging cycling through of all the jokes seen in the preview. It has its moments of clarity, enough so that the film is still a winner, but it won’t be long before we too are forgetting Sarah Marshall.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):