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  Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Jonah Hill

Directed by: Nicholas Stoller

Produced by: Judd Apatow, Shauna Robertson

Written by: Jason Segel

Distributor: Universal Pictures


     Slowly but surely, Judd Apatow the Producer is breaking my heart. In my reviews for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Drillbit Taylor, I commented on just how disappointing it was to see the same man who brought us The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad now backing the very cruddy comedy his previous works were antitheses of. Now, he has slapped his name on Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which isn’t nearly as bad as the previous two catastrophes, but it still falls considerably flat in the humor department. Yes, the movie has its fair share of chuckles and, yes, it offers a superior night at the cinema than fellow “comedies” Superhero Movie and College Road Trip. Still, most will leave the movie feeling extraordinarily unsatisfied, especially if they’re aware of the pedigree that accompanies the Apatow brand-name. 

     Then again, why should I be critical of Apatow for merely producing mediocre works? Using that logic, I’d have to condemn Steven Spielberg for doing the same for Memoirs of a Geisha, as I would Francis Ford Coppola for Jeepers Creepers II. I certainly never thought to do anything of the sort when those films were released. Assessing my judgment on the issue, my malcontent towards Apatow is probably unwarranted; after all, his poor choices came back to bite him when Walk Hard and Drillbit Taylor tanked at the box-office. Still, it remains hard for me not to look at Forgetting Sarah Marshall as a colossal disappointment. Apatow’s presence in Hollywood has come to symbolize a beacon of hope for mainstream comedy; never have I laughed harder at The Movies than during screenings of the aforementioned beloved works he has contributed to.

     The protagonist of Forgetting Sarah Marshall is not the titular character, but Peter Bretter (Jason Segel, who also wrote the film), a menially-used music-composer for a tacky-NBC crime-drama. Superstar Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) stars in this crime-drama and is also Peter’s beloved girlfriend. Despite being something of a loser—in the film’s opening sequence, we observe him moping around the house naked, eating a giant bowl of fruit loops, and watching music-videos—Peter never questions Sarah’s undying faithfulness toward him. He is working up the courage to ask her to marry him. Before Peter can do this, however, Sarah dumps him in favor of a fling-opportunity with the ridiculous, self-absorbed British-pop-star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Desperate to clear his head, Peter books a vacation to Hawaii, only to find Sarah and Aldous also there. Solace, however, comes in the form of the hotel desk clerk, Rachel (Mila Kunis), who he may just be falling in love with. Rachel’s everyday presence comforts Peter while he copes with his startling break-up.

     Part of the reason why Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn’t successful to the degree that Knocked Up and Superbad were is because of the fact that it contains about half the substance of those films. Writer Segel and director Nicholas Stoller both follow Unspoken Apatow Rule #1—“Always be sure to provide enough drama in order to forge a rich enough background for the comedy to be funny”—but they only do so in a trivial sense. By the end of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the viewer only begins to care for Peter in a way that transcends sympathizing for his cartoonish loserdom. For the rest of the movie’s duration, they’re merely left to deal with the character’s antics, which are largely whiny and sometimes even irritating.

     When the cast and crew are able to deliver material that proves effective enough to overpower Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s blasé whole, however, the movie is really good. A particular sequence involving Dracula and puppets—I can’t find it in my heart to say anything more because I would be spoiling the scene—is gut-busting and smartly hilarious. Another instance in which the movie excels beyond the sum of its parts is in the performance of Mila Kunis, who is sexy, charming, and entirely believable in her role as Peter’s newfound love interest. I suspect that the part will garner Kunis far more attention than her FOX-gigs on “That 70’s Show” and “Family Guy” have in the past. Still, for the few small moments in which Forgetting Sarah Marshall touches upon the greatness of better Apatow-produced comedies, there are dozens of others in which it comes across as unfunny and boring. Even when the Apatow regulars—this time Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd—show up, their cameo-appearances seem more obligatory than they are humor-based. Even if it isn’t painful or disastrous, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is, as its title would suggest, a motion-picture that is best left forgotten.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 4.6.2008

Screened on: 4.11.2008 at the Mann Chinese 6 in Hollywood, CA.


Forgetting Sarah Marshall is rated R and runs 112 minutes.

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