MOVIE REVIEW ★★★ ‘Sarah Marshall’ Formulaic, But Not Forgettable

Apatow’s Latest Heartwarming And Hilarious

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Matthew (Jonah Hill), Rachel (Mila Kunis), Peter (Jason Segel), Aldous (Russel Brand), and Sarah (Kristen Bell) share an awkward moment in a romantic disaster comedy that explores one guy’s quest to grow up and get over the heartbreak of being dumped in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”
Glen Wilson—Courtesy Universal Pictures

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Directed by Nicholas Stoller

Written by Jason Segel

Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Russell Brand

Rated R

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Comedy movies of the past few years have progressively gravitated towards in-your-face outrageous laughs. Movies like Knocked Up, Superbad, and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story have led the way to this new form of R-rated comedy. These films are a direct result of Judd Apatow’s vision, who directed Knocked Up, produced Superbad, and most recently produced Forgetting Sarah Marsall. This movie serves up the laughs at a fevered pace, but Apatow’s formula is becoming a little predictable.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall stars Jason Segel (who also wrote the film) as Peter Bretter, a musician who becomes deliriously heartbroken after his television superstar girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) dumps him. In a desperate attempt to leave his depression behind, he takes a trip to Hawaii only to be confronted head on by Sarah and her new boyfriend Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) who are also vacationing. He meets a new love interest in the form of Rachel Jansen (Mila Kunis), which surprisingly makes Sarah jealous of Peter’s budding relationship. Hilarity ensues as Peter slowly comes to terms with the fact that his relationship with Sarah is completely over. Several Judd Apatow regulars also pop up, including Paul Rudd (Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin) and Jonah Hill (Knocked Up, Superbad) to provide the extra set of laughs that make these movies all the more sweet. The stars are almost perfectly cast, with Mila Kunis giving a surprisingly laudable performance as Rachel. Her wit and comic timing was always spot on.

Laugh out loud moments are all over the place. Peter is put in one awkward situation after another by being forced to live in the same vacation resort as Sarah. He is even forced to get to know Aldous, the one man he resents the most. The movie plays well off the intricacies of this situation, setting up one hilarious encounter after another, and surprisingly making it difficult for viewers to hate any particular character in the process. This is a true testament to Jason Segel’s skills in character development.

The problem with the movie is that the formula for this form of comedy is starting to feel very familiar. They seem to be going to more extreme lengths now for laughs, focusing more on sex-based laughs and nudity (from full nude frontal shots to fake orgasms), but the comic timing and wit that made previous movies of this vein like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad so unique and pleasantly surprising is now making Forgetting Sarah Marshall less funny in the same breath. Even without knowing that Judd Apatow or his writers were behind this, in some way you could pretty much guess it. At the same time, the movie manages to remain fresh on the back of its relationship drama. In the midst of all the laughs, Forgetting Sarah Marshall succeeds as an exposition on heartbreak as well. Usually in movies, a scene is hilarious and not heartwarming, or heartwarming and not hilarious. A movie that in one scene gives a genuinely touching commentary on relationships and still stays uproariously funny is something that is rarely seen; Forgetting Sarah Marshall should be applauded for pulling this off almost effortlessly.

This movie is so far the funniest of 2008. You will likely not find another movie guaranteed to give you this many laughs until August when Judd Apatow’s next offering, The Pineapple Express, arrives. Even as Appatow’s formula starts to show age and drag some scenes down, you’ll be totally happy with this movie by the time the hilarious extras start playing during the credits.