Judd Apatow, Hollywood’s king of comedy, reached back into his early days and pulled out another talented comic actor to show his stuff. And show it he did.
Jason Segel was willing to bare it all, going full frontal twice (briefly), in order to preserve the shock humor of his witty script. In a funny role that only Segel could have written for himself, Forgetting Sarah Marshall exposes not just his body, but his awkward sensitivity and clever ear for dialogue.
The screenplay contains some crude, mostly sexual humor, but also some touching moments everyone has gone through during a heartbreaking separation. Humiliation, conversational riffs, and even some puppets all combine in a decently crafted comedy with plenty of funny scenes.
I haven’t laughed that hard since the last Apatow production and it will be difficult to top that good time at the movies in 2008. But then again, if you didn’t enjoy any of those comedies, you should look for high-brow somewhere else.
Like Superbad, Knocked Up, and 40-Year-Old Vigin, Segel plays a boy-man forced to venture into manhood, especially when dealing with relationships. Peter Bretter is a clumsy, sweet doofus who enjoys gigantic bowls of cereal, sweatpants, and composing his Dracula rock opera.
The opening scene establishes his five-year romance with Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), a famous actress on TV’s “Crime Scene,” a bad knock-off of CSI. It co-stars Billy Baldwin delivering puns that would be passed up even for the unbearable CSI: Miami. Peter is a composer for the show’s “ominous tones.”
Sarah breaks up with Peter, who spirals into a period of intense depression and awkward one-night-stands. To get over the break-up, he decides (with a shove from his married step-brother, Brian [Bill Hader]) to vacation in Hawaii while he clears his head.
There he meets a series of supporting characters who rescue him from the crying jags in the fetal position. Paul Rudd is the stoned surfing instructor, Jonah Hill is the doting fanboy, and a endless supply of huge Hawaiian brutes all lend their comedic styles.
But Rachel (Mila Kunis), the sympathetic, ultra-cute hotel clerk, catches his eye and time spent with her helps Peter forget about Sarah Marshall. Unfortunately Marshall coincidentally is staying in the same resort with her British beau Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), an eccentric pop-star with suggestive lyrics and an ego the size of O’ahu. The dynamic between the two couples drives the film and the banter is at its best in a dinner scene featuring the four.
The production is clunky at times, a symptom of hiring first-time director Nicholas Stoller. But the quick cuts to unexpected bits separate it from being a formulaic splitsville movie like the bland Break-Up with Vince Vaughn.