Forgetting Sarah Marshall review


In his leading man debut, Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Knocked Up) stars as Peter Bretter, a musician who makes his living scoring the hilariously CSI-ish cop show where the lead detective is played by his girlfriend, actress Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). Since Peter is a regular schmoe who’s not famous in real life, there are more than a few indignities he must suffer, being the unnoticed other half of a relationship with a nationally famous actress. He happily withstands these things, easygoing sort that he is, treating his romantic commitment to Sarah with the utmost respect, movie star or not. Needless to say, the day comes where Sarah shows up to his apartment to break some hard news to him. She is no longer happy in the relationship, and it’s time for both of them to move on. His heart crushed, Peter tries everything to forget her: alcohol, parties, girls, et al. When all that turns out to be futile, he packs his bags and heads for a sunny Hawaiian vacation, hoping that a change of environment will finally take his mind off of Sarah. As comedies of error will dictate, he gets to the islands only to find that Sarah Marshall and her new flame are staying at the very same hotel that he is. Instead of leaving or taking the trouble to find another hotel, Peter decides to suck it up and try to enjoy himself despite everything in the circumstance promising otherwise. As his vacation grows increasingly miserable, he finds himself unexpectedly developing an attraction to Rachel (Mila Kunis), a desk clerk.

Judd Apatow and nearly everyone associated with him, whether through acting, writing, directing or producing, have established themselves as THE cinematic comedy powerhouse, being responsible for over a dozen critically acclaimed films over the last 5 years. And those are just the ones where Apatow wore the producer hat. Jason Segel has partnered on and off with Apatow since acting in Freaks And Geeks and Undeclared in the late 90s-early 00s, and with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he has also given life to his first screenplay, which fits right into the quality mold set by Apatow. The story and its humor are broad and often risqué, but the characters are so well constructed in their respective parts, and Segel conveys such a heartfelt personality in Peter that many of the rough edges are softened. It’s not high-minded comedy by any standard, but there’s definitely a discrete likability to its style.

Jason Segel has found a new level of popularity through his ongoing role in How I Met Your Mother, the tv show that perfectly captures the actor’s laid-back goofiness. His amiability is the thing that keeps Forgetting Sarah Marshall from drowning in the familiar cliché of its contrivances, which act as the movie’s most apparent shortcoming. Despite the predictability on display, it truly proves itself almost effortless in how appealing it is as a whole. True to its pedigree’s form, the acting is the main draw here, from the leads all the way down to some really satisfying cameos. Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis are pitch perfect as the objects of Peter’s frustrated affections, and Russell Brand kills it as Sarah Marshall’s vapid new fling. Rounding out the excellent cast is Jack McBreyer (30 Rock, Talladega Nights) as a naïve newlywed, Paul Rudd as a baked surfing coach, and Superbad’s Bill Hader and Jonah Hill, as Peter’s brother and a starstruck waiter, respectively.

As I stated before, the movie’s plot is derivative all over the place, but the sincerity that pervades Apatow’s work seems to be unending in its tendency to make us overlook how rote his movies seem on the surface. It’s stuff we’ve all seen before while rarely acknowledging the heart that beats at the core of these stereotypes. I’m personally grateful for films and music that recall that heart. Perhaps we all need to be reminded from time to time that romantic stereotypes still remain constant because they stem from a place of authenticity that is simply unashamed of being what it is.