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(Seen on 5/17/08) I really dig anti-romantic-comedies. Love is such a powerful emotion, that when it turns bad, it can truly ruin your life. So it’s cathartic to watch fictional characters go through it so convincingly, instead of the typical romantic comedy where the characters find their perfect love and everything ends with a happily ever after. And sure, Forgetting Sarah Marshall gets around to that by the end, but it finds its where there in a completely different fashion than the usual film.

Written by and starring Jason Segal, the film has the Judd Apatow feeling all over it. Most likely because Segal has been working with Apatow for most of his career, starting out as a teenager on the great show Freaks & Geeks, and Apatow produced it. Segal’s always had the chance to play the funny best friend, like in the Apatow creation Knocked Up or the surprisingly funny CBS show How I Met Your Mother; here he gets the chance to star. He’s in nearly every single scene of the film, and proves that he can be equally funny, embarrassing and awkwardly charming as the leading man Peter, who writes music for a CSI type show.

In the already infamous opening scene of the film, he learns that his TV star girlfriend, the titular Sarah Marshall, played lovably-bitchy by the beautiful Kristen Bell, is breaking up with him. Just coming out of the shower he’s buck naked, which adds to his vulnerability; it’s hilarious to watch him snuggle up to her, his flabby body shaking in agony and she reveals the truth about her sleeping with another man.

Never have we seen a dude fall this hard. Peter’s completely broken, incapable of making it through the day without breaking down into a torrent of tears and whining. He tries to cure it with a couple of unemotional one night stands, but even they end in tears. His best friend, played hilariously and mostly via webcam, by Bill Hader, suggests that he takes a vacation to Hawaii to ease his mind away from losing Sarah. This being a film and all, he ends up in the same hotel with her, while she’s on vacation with her new Rock Star boyfriend Aldus Snow. Aldus is a wonderful creation, so often do they turn the competing man into a complete and total jerk, making it all too easy to root for the lead character. But Aldus has such a wonderfuly obscure view of life, that he’s impossible to hate, even as he sings Sarah an overly sexual song in front of the whole resort.

The four lead characters of the film are surprisingly well rounded. You actually get to care about and understand each of their points of view. It’s not black and white, where you simply hate the characters you’re supposed to hate and love the characters you’re supposed to love. Segal’s script gives you a chance to get to know everyone and feel a bit what it’s like in their shoes, so that eventually you understand why Sarah left him, and then why she wants him back. I thought that Mila Kunis played a fairly one-note character as Jackie on That 70’s Show, but she always made me laugh, proving that she had good comic timing. Here she gets to play a real girl, one with true emotions, so we’re falling in love with her along with Peter. We also fall in love with Hawaii; the sun, the beach, and the palm trees create such a romantic setting, that almost any woman might seem like a goddess there.

I mentioned that this film feels very much like a Apatow film, which it does because of the mix of gross-out humor and true heart. But I actually liked this film better than both 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, it moves along at a better pace, seems more focused in its attention; while both those films run 20-30 minutes too long, wearing out their welcome. There are a couple of great supporting roles for Apatow regulars; Jonah Hill as a pathetic hotel employee, who's obsessed with Aldus, and Paul Rudd gets a couple of great lines as the hotel’s surfing teacher. Segal, as the lead, is pretty much the straight-man, with everyone around him bouncing wacky lines off him; he gets plenty of laughs though, and must live out one of his childhood dreams in a scene near the end of the film with a hilarious puppet version of Dracula. A truly inspired scene. I was impressed by how well rounded the whole film feels, so often these goofy films leave reality behind, but here they add another dimension, making you truly care about the characters. – Grade: B+

2 Responses to Forgetting Sarah Marshall:

  1. This movie was exactly what I hoped it would be. The preview set up the film really well and when I watched it, it totally delivered.

    I hope Pineapple Express turns out to be better than the previews have made it out to be.

  1. Oh, and that puppet scene was hilarious!