Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Judd Apatow, as a writer/director/producer has officially been a force to reckon with in Hollywood for some time now (since around 2005), regardless of how one may feel about him. Many of the films he is connected to open #1 or #2 at the box office, with the exception of obvious duds like Drillbit Taylor and Walk Hard. For an R-rated comedy to open in the top three spots is no small feat, especially in an age when most money-makers are aimed at children (The Forbidden Kingdom was #1 last weekend), and less people are going to the movies in general. Like I previously stated. Force to be reckoned with.

As for the movies themselves? Meh. It's hard to say. If I could say just one word to Judd Apatow, or any of the directors who work with him, it would be edit. Edit, man. His movies usually clock in at over two hours. Don't get me wrong, I love Apatow comedies, but I've yet to see one that needed to be as long as it was. Until now. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is definitely not the funniest of the Apatow productions. It's funnier than Walk Hard, but falls short of Knocked Up. And of course, neither of these films holds a candle to Superbad. That being said, it was still a highly enjoyable movie-going experience, especially for a month like April which births such offerings as Prom Night and Nim's Island.

The film follows Peter Bretter (played by Jason Segel) whose actress girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell) has dumped him for a Brit-Pop singer. To get over her and mend a broken heart, Peter takes a vacation to Hawaii, where (gasp!) Sarah and her new beau are also vacationing. There, he also meets the sweet and carefree Rachel (Mila Kunis) who teaches him how to “forget Sarah Marshall.” There are the Judd Apatow standards here. A lot of sexual references and jokes, most of which are funny enough. A lot of male nudity for comic affect—you see Segel's penis. A lot (let that mean whatever it needs to for every individual). And there is of course the female romantic interest with little or no basis whatsoever in reality, birthed completely out of typical male wish fulfillment fantasies, and entirely forgivable within the confines of this charming and winning comedy.

Several things became apparent to me when watching this film. Firstly, Jason Segel plays the same character he played on Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks. The over-zealous, clingy, emotional boyfriend who's not afraid to cry. But it works for him and he's infinitely more charming and charismatic than say, Seth Rogen. Funny little tidbit, on the DVD commentary for Superbad, Seth Rogen tells an anecdote about how he auditioned for “Band of Brothers”, which causes a snickering Jonah Hill to ask incredulously “You auditioned for 'Band of Brothers'?” Amen, Jonah. Like I said, love Apatow, love the Apatow crowd, and I even love Seth Rogen, but he's obviously the worst actor of the bunch, and by a wide margin. I digress. Also apparent to me when watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall was Paul Rudd, again. This time as a flakey surf-instructor. Still funny as ever, and still without a starring role in an Apatow comedy. Please tell me that a Paul Rudd vehicle is coming down the pipe, and it does not co-star Eva Longoria what's-her-tits (I refuse to dedicate brainpower to learning her new last name that, let's face it, isn't going to stick anyway). Thirdly, Jonah Hill. Jonah Hill likable. Jonah Hill funny. Jonah Hill not completely out of control. I didn't think it was possible, but the only thing I can deduce from this equation is that Jonah Hill is best in small doses, like this film. He also has the funniest line in the movie, which I won't reveal here. Trust me—you'll know when you hear it.

Ultimately, there's enough here to keep the average Apatow fan entertained. And it should be noted that the average Apatow movie is still ten-times funnier than most of the American comedies that are released (see my review of Smart People). That being said, as I write this review, Forgetting Sarah Marshall already rests on IMDB's list of top 250 movies of all time. Another aside, but I hate the knee-jerk politics that makeup that list. I liked Forgetting Sarah Marshall too, but damn. Top 250 movies of all time? Really? Let's set aside the fact that the list is bullshit anyway, seeing as Crash is on it, but Do the Right Thing isn't. Do people have such collective amnesia that they forget about how Superbad and Knocked Up were both out of the top 250 almost as soon as they came onto the list? Seems a weird way to end the review, but that's all she wrote.

Grade: B-

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