Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Jack McBrayer
Plot: Peter Bretter (Segel) has a bad break-up with his celebrity girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Bell), causing him to go to Hawaii on a getaway. Only Sarah is also on holiday there…
The pitch of Forgetting Sarah Marshall must have attracted audiences due to the fact it is most people’s idea of a nightmare scenario. Bad break-ups are the staple of most movies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall opening with Jason Segel’s Peter revelling being in love with the girl of his dreams, only for our actual introduction to Sarah Marshall being her breaking up with him after five years. Distraught, Peter tries to move on, a string of ill-advised one-night stands and evenings crying over old pictures filling the next five minutes of film. Eventually Bill Hader’s stepbrother character gives him the good idea of spending a week away in Hawaii. Without a better plan in mind, he sets off, only to discover that Sarah is spending her week there too, with her new rock star boyfriend, Aldous Snow.
This is the kind of film that wasn’t directed by Judd Apatow, but you can see his sticky fingers all over the project. Produced by Apatow, it definitely has his unique comedy stylings. It is clear that Apatow has pushed for director Nicholas Stoller to fill this movie with the kind of stars he would turn to first in his movie. Jason Segel is a Apatow regular and he is well suited to this part. He is the kind of loveable fool that you find so endearing, even when he is a pathetic man-child. He is also the kind of actor that adds that subtle back-ground joke to every moment. As he storms away from a dramatic argument, he finds time to hurl abuse at some newly-weds, stealing that one more crucial laugh from a funny moment. Yes, it helps Segel wrote the script, able to tailor-make the gags to suit his natural talents, but that shouldn’t rob from an incredibly strong leading performance. There are also several Apatow regulars littered in the background of the story. The likes of Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd and Bill Hader have little more than glorified cameos, but it makes these small distractions all the more important. Usually the nervous waiter at the restaurant bar would be a forgettable addition to proceedings, but Jonah Hill adds vital comic relief to such a token part. At the same time, the movie never forgets its selling point. Just because Paul Rudd has now been cast as the surfing teacher doesn’t mean he is going to be shoed into the plot at any given chance. When it is time for the cast to do their thing, these cameos drop away, so the main plot thread has ample time to breathe and develop. The main cast are unusual yet inspired choices. Kristen Bell takes up the mantle of Sarah Marshall, clever simply because in terms of jobs and image, both character and actress overlap. Bell, at the time of production, was the leading lady of a detective show, Veronica Mars, so when her character is a stereotypical struggling TV actor, you can tell Bell is adding personal experience into the part. Mila Kunis also stars, in perhaps the weakest role, but nonetheless, one she shines in. Kunis wasn’t particularly well known at this point in her career, most famous for voicing Meg in Family Guy, hardly the kind of credit that has producers lining up at the door. But she holds her own here, in the average love interest part, adding enough bite that you can see why she was cast over the likes of the usual suspects in this stock role, such as Rachel McAdams or Sandra Bullock. Finally, there is Russell Brand. Usually this would be a drastic nose-dive in quality, the actor very one-note with his usual performances. However, Stoller, Segel and Apatow craft an over-the-top character for Brand to embody, the sex pest rock star, Aldous Snow, meaning that Brand very nearly steals the whole movie with his outrageous antics. He was so amazing here, he actually got his own spin-off movie.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall ends up being the kind of film that can be watched over and over again, rarely losing its value. There are some gags that are, simply, never not funny. The fake orgasm competition between Peter and Sarah. Peter breaking down while improvising a song on the piano about how useless he is. Anything involving Peter’s puppet musical about Count Dracula. But really Forgetting Sarah Marshall is more successful due to its consistency with the smaller gags. There is never a scene that is not funny and most of the jokes are able to keep the ball rolling in terms of humour. It is, simply put, really funny. At the same time, it peels back the comedy to reveal real emotion. It never gets in the way of the plot, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall doesn’t mind being sad, serious or sometimes just cute. Peter, trying to win back Mila Kunis’s love does one act of kindness that might have been amusing or forgettable in any other movie, but here, brings real feelings of romance to the table.
Final Verdict: The movie might be titled Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but we surely won’t.