By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Forgetting Sarah Marshall is like a great comedy buffet: a huge variety of jokes and situations, most of them laugh out loud funny.
When I attended WonderCon a few weeks back, I had the opportunity of attending the panel for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The cast and director were quite funny and engaging, in particular British actor Russell Brand, who the audience found hysterically funny. We were also shown some extended clips from the film which I thought were pretty good, but I did have some reservations.
Sometimes a funny cast and director manage to make a movie that isn’t.
I’m happy to report that isn’t the case here. If you don’t mind (or are even a fan of) bawdy comedies that are not shy in their use of four letter words, nudity (particularly of the male variety, but I’ll get to that in a minute) and um, mature situations, then I think you’re going to like this one a lot.
The film opens with our “hero” Peter Bretter (played by Jason Segel). He’s in a sloppy apartment, consuming a huge bowl (and I mean huge) of what look like Fruit Loops. He looks like your typical Joe Shmoe bachelor: sloppy apartment, pudgy, sloppy looking himself, and basically harmless. But as it turns out, he’s been dating the uber-hot female star of a CSI-like TV series named of course, Sarah Marshall (played by the uber-hot Kristen Bell).
We see a quick montage of shots showing them in the Hollywood scene, with paprazzi clicking away and being highlighted on Entertainment Tonight as the happy up and coming couple. You see he’s in the biz, too: he writes the “dark and ominous” music for the same TV show. We also see coverage on TV of British pop star Aldous Snow, played by the aforementioned Russel Brand. These scenes are hysterical, showing him singing a song about global warming while thrusting his hips like he’s actually in a porn movie. Combine that with the lyrics of the song, and it was awesome to watch.
Things seem to be going great for our intrepid couple, although I found myself wondering what Sarah was doing with a guy like Peter. Seems it was one of those situations were they met before either of them were successful, and they’ve stuck together since. However Sarah comes home and utters the ominous phrase “Peter, as you know – I love you” just as he is coming out of the shower. He drops the towel in surprise and we’re treated to a full on shot of big tall pudgy guy frontal nudity. He of course assumes correctly that she’s breaking up with him and is so distraught that he doesn’t even want to put on any clothes to discuss it.
It’s actually a very funny scene, and seeing him go through this butt-naked makes him all the more pathetic. And he IS pathetic – definitely does not “man up.” However, before the scene is over we’re forced to sit through another couple of looks at his uncovered crotch. Repetitively funny? Not so much.
We soon met his step-brother Brian (played by Bill Hader) who is a apparently stable to the point of boring, married guy who tries to give Peter some good advice, which falls on deaf ears. Instead of immersing himself in his work(he has an idea to do a musical stage production of Dracula), Peter decides the best way to deal with this is to immediately jump into bed with the first available woman that comes along. The scene leading up to his first tryst is another good one, with him getting progressively drunk while trying to pick up a “date” for the evening.
The next day he goes to his doctor friend, afraid he’s caught some STD, and the doctor advises him to go out and have sex with as many women as possible (although he doesn’t phrase it exactly that way). Steve Landsberg, who I haven’t seen in anything in quite a while played the doctor with his usual dry wit and delivery.
After a few funny “hook-ups” Peter decides he needs to get away, so of course he picks somewhere that Sarah always wanted to go: Hawaii. Shockingly, it turns out she’s staying at the same hotel where he’s decide to stay, and is there with the vacuous Aldous. The gorgeous concierge, Rachel (Mila Kunis) takes pity on him and gives him the key to the $6000/night suite since it’s rarely used.
This was another little thing I had a problem with: Why in the world this hottie would be attracted to a openly pathetic and below average looking guy. I mean he’s not even wealthy, obvious since he can’t afford the room.
Anyway, from here on you can imagine the hijinks as Peter wants to stay away from Sarah and Aldous yet finds himself pretty much stalking them. Although Segel is quite funny, the real gems in this movie are the smaller roles. Jack McBrayer as a newlywed who doesn’t know how to have sex, Bill Hader as Peter’s brother-in-law, Jonah Hill (from Superbad) as the Aldous-adoring waiter, Paul Rudd as the surf instructor who’s smoked one too many joints, and even Davon McDonald in a very small role as a bartender at the hotel.
There was such a variety of situations, gags and characters that were ALL funny that it felt like I was watching a great, classic episode of Saturday Night Live where it all revolved around some central theme.
So what didn’t work?
Too many shots of Peter’s naked crotch. Once is funny, twice maybe, but after three or four times it’s just weird. Male genitalia isn’t that funny.
That’s about it on the “what didn’t work” list. The way the movie flowed I even eventually bought into the concierge falling for Peter. Going in I was also afraid he’d be too whiney too long, but things reversed in the end in a nice bit of irony.
As far as what did, beyond what I’ve already written? Too much to list (and spoil) but scenes to look out for include:
– Peter stalking Sarah while step brother screams over a lowered cell phone.
– Peter in a fetal position on the floor in the suite.
– Keep an eye out for the line: I sense a little pain behind those eyes. Dude is VERY funny.
– The song at the luau, “Inside of You”.
– A scene where Peter is invited to help the cook prepare dinner. (I almost fell out of my chair on this one.)
– “Are those sad tissues or happy tissues?”
While the movie goes in the direction you pretty much expect, in the end it really all worked well while delivering more laughs than I’ve had in a comedy since I watched Apatow’s last movie Superbad. But if your offended by lots of coarse language and sexual situations, Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn’t for you (it definitely earns its R-rating).
However if those things don’t bother you, I highly recommend it!