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Review: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Directed by: Nicholas Stoller

Premise: Peter (Jason Segel), a struggling musician, breaks up with his girlfriend (Kristen Bell), a rising television star, when she leaves him for a self obsessed pop singer (Russell Brand). Trying to recover from the split, Peter takes a vacation to Hawaii only to find Sarah and her new boyfriend vacationing at the same hotel.

What Works: Forgetting Sarah Marshall is another Judd Apatow produced sex comedy. Like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, and Knocked Up the film successfully mines the humor in contemporary romance, mixing explicit sexual humor with a disarming sweetness. The film is pop culture savvy, especially in sequences of Sarah Marshall’s police procedural television series, which features a terrific cameo of William Baldwin doing a very funny imitation of David Caruso on CSI: Miami. After Peter discovers his ex is vacationing next to him, he falls for a carefree hotel attendant (Mila Kunis) and starts to reclaim his life. This portion of the film is very rewarding as Peter’s journey of maturation and reconciliation links together his love life with his professional and personal goals. The lead female roles are better written than expected, much more so than similar stories, especially Kunis, who is given both a lighthearted disposition and a very real, sensitive side. One of the biggest joys of Forgetting Sarah Marshall is in the supporting cast of characters. These roles could easily have been flat, vanilla stereotypes but the script, written by star Jason Segel, is filled with colorful characters who have some of the best lines in the film.

What Doesn’t: The film’s biggest asset is also its biggest liability; the supporting cast is much funnier and more interesting than the lead characters. Peter in particular is extremely whiny throughout the first half of the film and his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend are very unsympathetic. Despite how well the story is done, especially in its final act, the film sticks to formula to a fault and once all the lead characters are in place, most audience members will be able to map out the rest of the film long before it happens. The humor in the film is frequent but Forgetting Sarah Marshall does not have any huge belly laughs. A lot of the humor is based on one-liners rather than plot devices and while the dialogue is certainly sharp it cannot substitute for more substantive humor.  

Bottom Line: Forgetting Sarah Marshall sits a rung or two below Wedding Crashers on the sex comedy ladder. It emulates a lot of the good qualities of that film but also amplifies its weaknesses. The reliance on cliché and the lack of compelling main characters weakens the film, but it is fun and fans of Apatow’s other projects will enjoy this one as well.

Episode: #187 (April 27, 2008)