Aside from the minor misstep of Drillbit Taylor, Judd Apatow and Co . have been on quite a hot streak. 40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad reinvigorated the “hard R” comedy genre. Sure, Walk Hard tanked at the box office, but fans still loved it.
Not only has Apatow brought back the glory days of raunchy comedies like Stripes and Slap Shot, but he’s also managed to do it without major star power, launching the careers of ragtag group of relative unknowns outside of the Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared cult fanbase.
By now the hype surrounding Forgetting Sarah Marshall has reached full-on fever pitch, which is a shame because few movies can ever live up to that kind of build up. Rest assured, however, if you go into this one with reasonable expectations, you should have a very, very good time at the theater.
Jason Segel is Peter Bretter, an aspiring composer working for a CSI-like TV show entitled Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime. He’s been dating the show’s hottie star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) for the past five years and, outside of struggling to finish his Dracula Musical, life is going pretty well.
But Bretter’s world comes crashing down when Sarah ends the relationship in one of the funniest break-up scenes ever committed to celluloid. She’s been having an affair with Brit rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) and grown tired of Peter’s immature ways. After a brief bit of post-breakup seed spreading, Peter embarks on a trip to Hawaii in an attempt to forget his troubles. Once in paradise, he encounters his worst nightmare when he learns that Sarah Marshall is also in Hawaii with her new beau.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall features a stellar ensemble that includes Mila Kunis, Jonah Hill, Jack McBrayer, Paul Rudd and Bill Hader. Nick Stoller directs and Segel does double duty as writer and star.
Segel does a great job with the script, setting up a ton of nutty scenarios that allow this talented group to play off each scene in every which way. Writers rarely get credit when a movie features as much improv material as Sarah Marshall does, but I think its Segel’s writing that really elevates the material and gives it such a strong foundation. There are so many quotable lines that I even found myself writing down a couple. Yes, I’m that much of a comedy nerd.
The breakout role of Sarah Marshall comes from Brit export Russell Brand. A relative unknown stateside, Brand is absolutely hysterical as Aldous Snow. Whether it is singing songs like “Inside of You” or discussing his lowly past as a drug addict willing to “rim waiters for a rock,” the quick-witted, fast-talking Brand is responsible for some of the biggest laughs in the film.
Add to that scores of memorable cameos, from an Aldous Snow-obsessed Jonah Hill (he and Brand make such a great comedy team that they are already co-starring in a future Apatow project) to Paul Rudd’s forgetful surf instructor to Bill Hader’s tough love brother-in-law to Jack McBrayer’s riotous performance as a Mormon on his honeymoon discovering the many mysteries of the female anatomy.
And let’s not forget Segel himself, who’s lowly Peter Bretter undergoes a life-changing experience during his romance with dreamgirl cool chick Rachel Jansen (Kunis). This is the standard stuff of comedy romance and Kunis is pretty much “the girl,” but they have a nice chemistry and even the romantically cynical should find themselves routing for them to get together.
I’ve now seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall twice (which I rarely do) and while some of the shock value laughs may not have played quite as well the second time around, I still enjoyed the experience and even managed to catch a few lines I had missed before. Granted, there are some flaws and a few jokes that fall flat, but considering the rapid-fire pace at which they’re being delivered, the success rate is quite impressive.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall may not be a better overall movie than Knocked Up or Superbad, but it had some of the biggest laughs I can remember this side of Something About Mary. That Apatow train keeps chugging along and I’m on board. I can’t wait for Pineapple Express.