Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) – Forgotten Already…
I lost interest in comedy films somewhere in the mid-Noughties, when the influence of “American Pie”-style gross out comedies and the Farrelly Brothers were on the wane, and the baton was passed to the likes of Judd Apatow, the man who brought us “Ron Burgundy”, “Superbad” and “Knocked Up” among others.
“American Pie” was a glossy Hollywood 90’s spin on the “Porkie’s” style of teen comedy, full of Jocks and Nerds and sperm jokes, it was sweet natured and the appeal was virtually universal; the Farrelly’s output was also distinctly stateside, but were distinctly democratic in their gleeful pisstaking of everyone from blind kids with decapitated pet birds (“Dumb and Dumber”) to schizophrenics to conjoined twins (“Me, Myself & Irene”, “Stuck on You”). There was warmth, and their films starred international superstars such as Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Matt Dillon, and Bill Murray among others.
The Apatow canon relied mainly on acquired tastes such as Seth Rogen, Steve Carell, and Will Ferrell – you either buy into their humor, or not. Ferrell, for example, starred in “Ron Burgundy”, often quoted as one of the funniest films of the past decade or so, but left me cold. I could handle him in “Elf” and “Stranger Than Fiction”, but otherwise, I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be laughing at, his style being so stylized and deliberately “out there”.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, written by star Jason Segel, still falls under the Apatow production umbrella, and is a fairly enjoyable, somewhat predictable romp which is neither frank or gross enough to be truly shocking or hilarious, nor romantic enough to fully satisfy as a rom-com.
It tells the tale of Peter Bretter (Segel), a layabout composer for a forensic crime scene drama which also stars his other half, the bitchily beautiful and ambitious Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). She dumps him for someone else, the someone else turning out to be controversial rock star Aldous Snow (RussellBrand).
After some time wallowing in self pity and a string of ill-advised one night stands, Peter decides to go on holiday to Hawaii. Typically for the set up, he manages to check into the same plush hotel as Sarah and Aldous.
Rather than “forgetting something” and legging it, Peter decides to stay on at the hotel, largely thanks to hottie receptionist Rachel (Mila Kunis) allowing him to stay in the hotel’s most expensive suite for free. Then he is free to indulge in humiliating self pity, hang out with the hotel’s stoner staff, and get himself in uncomfortable confrontations with his ex and her new fella.
He also manages to pluck up the courage to ask the sweet-natured and free-spirited Rachel out on a date, which is where the “Romantic” aspect of this rom-com comes into play.
The film ambles along at an enjoyable pace – it would take a complete novice to romantic comedies to be surprised by the outcome – and it’s pleasant nature is largely thanks to Segel’s performance. While he’s not a terribly exciting or funny leading man for such a role, he has a real everyman charm, and is not afraid to humiliate himself. For a semi-sex comedy, the majority of the nudity involves the leading man himself, with a number of embarrassing full frontal moments of Segel in the buff.
Bell as Sarah Marshall is shrill, shallow and bitchy, which makes you wonder why a sensitive soul such as Peter was particularly interested in her in the first place, let alone felt so devastated when she dumps him. OK, the sex might have been good, but apart from that, the two characters seem to have very little in common.
The luscious Mila Kunis comes off much better in a far more sympathetic role as Rachel; she’s carefree and loving her life in Hawaii, but has dark moments in her past which make her seem like her out of work Party mode is a bit of a front.
Perhaps most the biggest let down is Russell Brand as Aldous – the controversial stand up is disappointingly well behaved as the supposedly hellraising rock star. Brand seems rather self-conscious in the role, and while he gets a few laughs, his stand up routine describing his experiences on the film shoot was far funnier.
There are a few amusing moments involving members of the Apatow stable of comedy-actors – Jack McBrayer as a hardcore Christian newly wed, whose duties as a man to his new wife come into daunting, horrific close up; bubble permed fatboy Jonah Hill as a waiter intoxicated with Aldous Snow’s stardom; and Paul Rudd as an ultra-stoned surf instructor who forgets his intimate conversations with his pupils.
William Baldwin also gobbles up some well-needed laughs as Sarah’s co-star in the crime investigation TV show, as a cynical and ultra-macho detective who specializes in insensitive and inappropriate one liners.
A middle of the road comedy with a few inspired moments, which suffers from being neither naughty enough to raise eyebrows, nor romantic enough to make it a proper date movie. Hovers somewhere around the “Fifty First Dates” bracket of modern rom-com.