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Overall Rating
3.82

Awesome: 34.55%
Worth A Look43.64%
Average: 5.45%
Pretty Bad: 1.82%
Total Crap: 14.55%

5 reviews, 25 user ratings


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Forgetting Sarah Marshall
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by Peter Sobczynski

"My Pineapple Nights"
4 stars

In the wake of the recent box-office disappointment of “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” (a film which, I must add, plays much better on DVD than it did in theaters) and the complete financial and artistic failure of the recent “Drillbit Taylor,” there has been some speculation that perhaps audiences and critics had already begun to grow weary of the cinematic stylings of comedy kingpin Judd Apatow, whose efforts as writer, producer and/or director have included such hits as “Anchorman,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” and were prepared to abandon him in drove for the likes of the eminently worthy Diablo Cody. Happily, the latest product from the Apatow production line, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” is a definite course correction and while this latest combination of wildly broad humor, moments of surprising sincerity and the sight of schlumpy guys dating way outside of their attractiveness pay grade may not exactly break new ground, it shows that the brand is still alive, kicking and prepared to wreak havoc on your funny bone without totally damaging your brain cells in the process.

This time around, our hero is Peter (Jason Segel, who also wrote the screenplay), an amiable doofus who spends most of his days scarfing up jumbo bowls or cereal while composing the incidental background music for a hacky “CSI” knockoff. His greatest achievement, however, seems to be the fact that for the last four years, he has been dating the co-star of that series, glamorous sex-bomb actress Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). Alas, that comes to a sad end when she returns home from a trip and announces that she is breaking up with him and that yes, there is somebody else that she recently met. Peter is devastated and when his attempts to jump back into the dating pool have spectacularly awful results (lots of post-coital crying), his stepbrother suggests that he go out of town for a few days on vacation to clear his head and get Sarah out of his mind once and for all. Peter goes to Hawaii and when he arrives at a randomly selected luxury resort, he is appalled to discover that the place is way out of his price range and, to make matters worse, Sarah happens to be staying there as well with her new boyfriend, British rock star/noted Lothario Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).

Realizing his plight, Rachel (Mila Kunis), the hotel’s cute desk clerk, takes pity on Peter and lets him stay for free in one of those extra-deluxe rooms that you can’t even contemplate staying in unless your name is Oprah. Over the next couple of days, she helps drag Peter out of his shell—it turns out that she too was the victim of a broken heart that hasn’t entirely healed—and while most observers seem to think that she is merely taking her customer service job to the next level, it appears that something is genuinely developing between the two of them. One person who definitely notices this is Sarah, who has begun to discover that Aldous may not be the man of her dreams after all and is beginning to think that she made a mistake after all by leaving Peter. This conflict leads to the expected scenes involving uncomfortable dinner dates, awkward confessions, tearful breakups and noble gestures made in a last-ditch effort to win back one’s true love. It also leads to a number of unexpected scenes as well—unexpected, that is, unless you can name another romantic comedy in recent memory in which a good deal of the finale was dedicated to a musical number from an all-puppet rock opera of one of the most famous horror titles of all time.

Although they have been justifiably celebrated for their cheerfully outrageous comedic set-pieces, the real reason behind the success of the best Apatow-related films has been that they have all told stories that have had real emotional underpinnings amidst all of the wild humor—the characters were fully-developed people with hopes and fears that we could all relate to—and the results were both hilarious and surprisingly poignant to boot. (The more overtly spoofy “Walk Hard” obviously lacked these underpinnings and I think that might have been part of the reason why it suffered with viewers.) “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is being billed as a raucous comedy but it also works quite well as an observational piece about suffering from the breakdown of a relationship and the struggle to move on with life in the wake of it—although played for laughs, Segel’s screenplay does an effective job of capturing the devastation of a sudden breakup and the ways in which we try to help others through that pain through such well-meaning but unhelpful ways as offering up in endless detail the way in which we always hated that person deep down. The screenplay also does a good job of avoiding the clichés that one usually finds in this type of film. Going in, for example, we might expect to see scenes in which Sarah is painted as a one-dimensional bitch while Peter is seen as a noble saint, the growing romance between Peter and Rachel is threatened by the kind of meaningless argument that only occurs in screenplays written by people who want to introduce some kind of conflict in the final reels but are too lazy to come up with one that might really crop up between two people and Aldous is portrayed as a seemingly wonderful person who only shows his true monstrous covers so that any possible choice that Sarah might have to make is made incalculably easier. Here, Segel sets us up for those standard developments and then zig-zags into less predictable and more interesting areas—while Sarah is first shown to be kind of selfish and heartless, the film gradually shows here to be a more complex person than that and reveals that Peter has enough flaws of his own to make her decision to leave him seem entirely reasonable and justified. While I won’t go into the elements that threaten to split Peter and Rachel apart, I will say that they are also of a completely identifiable nature and that what develops from that feels like it comes from real life and not from the pages of a Syd Field guidebook. Even Aldous is given more dimension that his character type is usually afforded in films of this type—yes, he does turn out to be a cad but to his credit, he is pretty much upfront about that aspect of his personality—it isn’t his fault that Sarah has chosen to ignore it—and in the moments when he and Peter find themselves alone together, he actually makes a genuine effort to make the best of an extremely awkward situation even though he is clearly holding all the cards.

Of course, I don’t want to make “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” sound like it is simply an examination of contemporary relationships—it is first and foremost a comedy and in that respect, it is, with the possible exception of “Prom Night,” the funniest American film that I have seen so far this year. Segel and director Nicholas Stoller go to many lengths to get laughs—the film runs the gamut from smart observational humor (when Sarah ponders her future in show business after a career setback, Peter helpfully remarks “You’ve got four years before you’re 30”) to amusing pop culture references (after Peter moans about Sarah once too often, another character finally snaps “It’s like “The Sopranos”—it’s over!”) to wild sight gags (I will only state that the usual rules applying to big-screen frontal nudity are heedlessly upended here) to bits of sheer weirdness that make you laugh once because they are funny and a second time because you can’t believe that someone had the audacity to conceive of them in the first place. Fans of Apatow’s previous films will also be delighted to discover that besides Segel, who gets the lead here after earlier supporting turns, such beloved members of his stock company as Bill Hader (as Peter’s stepbrother), Jonah Hill (as a hotel maitre d’ who is obsessed with Aldous) and the increasingly invaluable Paul Rudd (as a surfing instructor so laid-back that you can’t imagine how he can even stand on his board) pop up and score big laughs with their appearances.

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” does have a few hitches here and there. Like most Apatow projects, it does run on a little bit longer than it needs to, though not as egregiously as “Knocked Up” or “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” (A subplot involving “30 Rock” MVP Jack McBrayer as a virginal newlywed who is fairly terrified of the aggressions of new wife Maria Thayer is amusing but extraneous—it should have either been deleted entirely or spun off into its own feature film.) I also wish that the women had been given a chance to show off their comedic chops in the way that Catherine Keener and Katherine Heigl did in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”—Mila Kunis doesn’t get much to do other than be sweet and charming and likable (all of which she pulls off in spades) and the moments when Kristen Bell is given something funny to do (such as the in-joke references to her work on the much-beloved “Veronica Mars” and the much-less-beloved horror craptacular “Pulse”), she pulls them off so beautifully that I found myself wishing that there were more of them. (Maybe such scenes will turn up in the almost-inevitable extended edition DVD.) Those are minor quibbles, however, and they hardly begin to mar “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” a film that will most assuredly make you laugh, possibly make you think and definitely make you reassess your views of puppet-based entertainment, the behind-the-scenes of a luau and the theme song from “The Muppet Show” for years to come.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17021&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/18/08 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/10/11 fartvenugen How does one forget Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Garbage. 1 stars
2/24/10 Peter North this movie was hilarious....and I want to be inside Mila's Kunis..... 5 stars
2/18/10 Monday Morning Very unfunny, especially Jason Segel's dick, which was totally uncalled for. And small. 2 stars
6/16/09 art OUTRAGEOUS! 4 stars
4/11/09 John Aster Jason Segal plays his usual sweet nice guy and despite crude humor a really sweet movie 5 stars
2/27/09 MP Bartley Very funny in spots with great supporting performances across the board. 4 stars
1/12/09 mr.mike Goes on a bit too long , otherwise good. 4 stars
1/08/09 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 4 stars
10/11/08 Annie G Not too bad when you just need a decent comedy. Hawaii is gorgeous as usual! 3 stars
10/05/08 Fenstwhip Shiggins We'd be so much better never having learned of Sarah Marshall, so nothing of her to forget. 1 stars
10/02/08 Charles Tatum Laughs here and there, but no comedy classic 3 stars
9/18/08 The Velcro Warlock Ugh, an unrated version advertised just when I thought I'd be forgetting Forgetting Sarah M 1 stars
9/05/08 Little Pissed Sunshine Yes, a non-farcical movie needs likeable characters;this has none (nor succeeds as farce). 1 stars
8/22/08 Kristin Bellfree So right, Jenny and Ashley. Never wanna meet paul shortt or harpy who's pulling his strings 1 stars
7/17/08 Jenny Tullwartz A should've waited for DVD so can FF thru agony to see HOW bad a pisser ending! 1 stars
7/17/08 Ashley Corpening Sarah and Rachel are BOTH unlikeable, and Aldous is nothing but a caricature! 1 stars
7/14/08 Private Found this to be overrated. Cast was willing but execution and script was largely flat. 3 stars
7/05/08 Samantha Pruitt Superbad was better, but this is still pretty funny! 5 stars
6/03/08 PAUL SHORTT CRASSLY DISSOLVES THE GENDER BALANCE IN A VAT OF ACIDIC TESTOSTERONE 1 stars
6/02/08 George Barksdale Funny, had a good time. 4 stars
5/27/08 g awesome 5 stars
5/14/08 Simon Hilarious of course, but spotty seriousness, Apatow= scatterbrained; Kunis sure is gorgeous 4 stars
4/30/08 J Extremely funny. 5 stars
4/26/08 Teresa Goodwin This was absolutely hilarious, a must see! 5 stars
4/26/08 Dale it was very funny 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Apr-2008 (R)
  DVD: 30-Sep-2008

UK
  06-Jun-2008

Australia
  17-Apr-2008
  DVD: 30-Sep-2008


Directed by
  Nick Stoller

Written by
  Jason Segel
  Judd Apatow

Cast
  Jason Segel
  Kristen Bell
  Mila Kunis
  Russell Brand
  Paul Rudd
  Jonah Hill
  Bill Hader
  Jack McBrayer



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