Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd, Jack McBrayer, Jonah Hill
Jason Segel, Judd Apatow
Okay. Let's get this out of the way.
Yes, there is a penis in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," the latest film from the Apatow production fraternity starring the film's writer, Jason Segel ("Freaks & Geeks," "Knocked Up"), as Peter Bretter.
Bretter is seemingly living the good life as a music composer for a campy television series rip-off of CSI that just so happens to star his beautiful girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell, "Veronica Mars").
The aforementioned penis scene practically opens the film as Peter prepares for Sarah's return home and greets her, well, you get the idea. Unfortunately for Peter, Sarah is breaks up with him.
After first sleeping with nearly any woman who will say yes, Peter heads off for a Hawaiian vacation upon the advice of his step-brother (Bill Hader, "SNL" and "Super Bad") in an attempt to forget Sarah Marshall. In a rather predictable cinematic set-up, Peter finds himself at the same resort as Sarah and her new boyfriend, Brit rocker Aldous Snow (Brit actor Russell Brand, "Penelope").
More capable of sincerity than the similarly gifted Seth Rogen, Segel is a wonderfully jumbled blend of the stereotypical man-child. The scenes of Segel watching Sarah and Aldous flirt, coo and do who knows what are reminiscent of John Cusack trying to deal with that Ian guy in "High Fidelity."
I couldn't help but think about Ben Stiller's dreadful "The Heartbreak Kid" while watching "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Whereas Stiller's film painted break-ups in broad strokes and those involved with darkly comic tones, Segel wisely keeps everyone in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" on a level playing field. While it seems obvious that Peter has been wronged by his beautiful, upwardly mobile ex-girlfriend, Segel's script never paints her in such a way that we forget why he loves her.
Being a comedy, of course, Segel throws in a garden variety of supporting characters ranging from the sincere desk clerk who takes a liking to Peter (Mila Kunis, "That 70's Show") to a surf instructor who hands out pot-induced advice (Apatow regular Paul Rudd) and a hilariously awkward Christian newlywed (Jack McBrayer, "30 Rock").
While Both Segel and Bell are strong, one could easily put forth the argument that it's actually the supporting players who elevate "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" to such delightful heights. Kunis, who I never particularly cared for on "That 70's Show," is perhaps the greatest revelation in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Sensitive and sexy with a subtle comic timing, Kunis is at time surprisingly poignant as a young woman simultaneously strong and vulnerable. Similarly, Russell Brand is spot-on perfect as a rock singer who seems born out of the Jim Morrison/Michael Hutchence mold. In a film that perfectly blends silliness and sincerity, only Jonah Hill's fawning over Aldous seems over-the-top and out of place.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" features a beautiful score blending classic pop tunes with Hawaiian takes on contemporary music, including a killer take of "Nothing Compares 2 U" over the closing credits. The film is beautifully shot by Russ T. Alsobrook ("Super Bad," "Reign Over Me") and Hawaii in such a way that it never outshines the film itself.
After the surprisingly forgettable "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is proof that Hollywood isn't quite done with the Judd Apatow fraternity of actors and filmmakers. While it's not quite up there with "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" or even "Knocked Up," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a return to form for the Apatow team.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic