‘Marshall’ can be proudly added to Apatow canon
by Hawkins Teague
Apr 23, 2008 | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”

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While “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” isn’t as consistently laugh-out-loud funny as last year’s Judd Apatow-produced hits “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” it is often hilarious and boasts a wonderful cast and likable characters.

The movie was written by Apatow regular Jason Segal, who also stars as the main character, Peter. Peter writes music for the TV show, “Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime,” (a great spoof of all those “C.S.I.” types), which stars his girlfriend of five years, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). After Sarah dumps him, he falls apart and spends a few weeks trying to pick up the pieces.

Unable to let go, Peter decides that a trip to Hawaii might help him get his mind off Sarah. But as you know if you’ve seen any promotion for the film, Sarah and her new boyfriend, English pop singer Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), happen to be staying at the same resort. Peter decides that to flee the hotel would make him look more pathetic than he already does, so he stays put.

The script is smart and observant about the pain which people go through after the breakup of major relationships. The cute hotel receptionist, Rachel (Mila Kunis), who lets Peter stay in the resort’s most expensive suite since it usually not reserved, has to call his room because the front desk has received calls about loud wails from a crying woman. After Peter starts spending more time outside of his room, he begins to make friends with some of the eccentric characters around the hotel and on the beach, including a waiter who’s a huge Snow fan (Jonah Hill of “Superbad”), a nervous newlywed (Jack McBrayer of “30 Rock”) a bartender (Davon McDonald) and a spaced-out surfer (Paul Rudd) who hangs out on the beach.

All the leading actors are great and the supporting cast adds to the fun. Although it’s at first hard to believe that a regular guy like Peter would be with a beautiful television star, the movie strongly implies that they got together before she became famous, which makes the suspension of disbelief a little easier for the audience. This also helps to explain the distance she says is between them before she breaks his heart. And even though most movies of this genre would present a one-dimensional villainous ex-girlfriend, Bell is allowed to play Sarah as a flawed character whom it’s hard not to like at least a little bit.

Still, as likable as Bell is, we’re clearly meant to root for Peter and Rachel to get together. Kunis (“That ‘70s Show”) makes this easy, since she is just as laid back and fun a romantic interest as any brokenhearted guy could hope to meet in the tropics.

Although the supporting casts gets plenty of great lines and stolen scenes among the lot of them, Brand stands out above the rest as the leather-wearing, womanizing reformed alcoholic Snow. As much as Peter (and the audience) first wants to see bad things happen to him, he’s way too funny and disarming.

Before closing, let me also say this. The scenes in the movie involving vampire puppets singing a rock opera of Dracula are quite funny. OK, this requires a little explanation. When Peter and Rachel go to a bar, she asks him how she likes his job. He at first pretends to be satisfied, but then admits that he doesn’t feel like he gets to write any real music for the show, instead settling for “ominous tones.” He then tells her that it’s always been his dream to do a rock opera of “Dracula” with puppets. When he returns from the restaurant, he is horrified when the leader of the bar band introduces him to the stage to sing a song from his opus. Peter approaches the keyboard and plays a song about the tragedy of wanting love, not getting it and not being able to die while Rachel laughs her head off and the crowd confusedly looks up from their drinks.

Segal has apparently been hired write the next Muppet movie, which is quite fitting, I think. I’ll try not to give away the ending of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” but rest assured that you will see some puppets before it’s over. These unexpected eccentric moments not only elevate Segal’s script above the average comic fray, but the best Apatow productions in general.

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is rated R. No one under 17 admitted without accompanying parent or guardian.
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