'Forgetting Sarah Marshall': Film Review
AUSTIN — Move over, Greg Mottola: Time to welcome Nicholas Stoller to the clique of directors whose unusually yuk-heavy films will be credited largely to producer and male-nudity aficionado Judd Apatow.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall might not be as outrageous as Superbad or as unusual as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but it's another comedy that works better than its template promises and should perform well (if not breakthrough, star-making well) at the boxoffice when Universal opens it April 18.
Written by and starring longtime Apatow alum Jason Segel, the film exploits the sweetly vulnerable persona he made memorable in Freaks and Geeks. Segel's Peter Bretter, having been dumped by his actress girlfriend, is so obviously adrift that workers at the Hawaiian resort he flees to — coincidentally, the same one his ex is visiting with her new rock-star lover — can't help but watch over him: A mountainous chef recruits Peter to help slaughter a pig, bartenders indulge his drinking benders, and the babe at the front desk (Mila Kunis) sets him up with freebies and shows him a good time during her off hours.
The setup's so sweet that Peter's initial inability to find comfort is all the more pathetic. Segel is good at wallowing, as he proves in hysterical crying jags and in a cathartic scene where the musician (in his unfulfilling day job, he writes the score for Sarah's CSI-like cop show) beats himself up in song.
The familiar boy-loses-girl, boy-meets-new-girl story line is enlivened by well-timed banter, the occasional bit of oddball inspiration —Peter's ambition, for instance, to write a musical that's equal parts Dracula, Les Mis and Avenue Q — and solid supporting turns by reliable zinger machine Paul Rudd and good-luck charms Jonah Hill and Jack McBrayer. Russell Brand steals a couple of scenes as the hyperbolically self-absorbed rocker who is so upfront about his hedonism that Peter almost comes to respect him.
As in other big-screen Apatow productions, a good deal of the humor is raunchy — from the travails of a God-fearing honeymooner (McBrayer), who's repulsed and scared by his bride's desires, to the repeated deployment of Segel's genitalia for shock laughs.
There might come a day when American moviegoers stop bursting into self-conscious laughter at the sight of a dangling male member, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall proves — and proves and proves some more — it's not here yet.
This review was written for the South by Southwest festival screening of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Screenwriter: Jason Segel
Producers: Judd Apatow, Shauna Robertson
Executive producers: Rodney Rothman, Richard Vane
Director of photography: Russ T. Alsobrook
Production designer: Jackson De Govia
Music: Lyle Workman
Costume designer: Leesa Evans
Editor: William Kerr
Peter Bretter: Jason Segel
Sarah Marshall: Kristen Bell
Racheal: Mila Kunis
Aldous Snow: Russell Brand
Brian: Bill Hader
Running time — 112 minutes
MPAA rating: R