You can’t talk about producer Judd Apatow without bringing up his recent blockbusters “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” Apatow’s latest film tries to recreate the success of his others with a similar mixture of bawdy humor and likable characters, but, ultimately, it fails to create the same memorable comedic moments. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” lacks the endearing but flawed protagonists who have become the hallmark of an Apatow film. The three main characters in the movie lack the chemistry and charisma, but, luckily, the supporting cast makes up for some of this dearth.
Written by Jason Segel—who also stars in the movie—and directed by Nicholas A. Stoller ’98, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” has all the elements of a romantic comedy, mixed with Apatow’s penchant for ribald laughs, vulgar language, and nudity. Segel plays Peter Bretter, a grown-up version of his lovable oaf character from “Freaks and Geeks.” Peter, a struggling composer, is devastated when his beautiful, TV-star girlfriend, Sarah Marshall, breaks up with him. To get over his ex, Peter takes the advice of his brother and jets off to Hawaii. Upon his arrival, he learns that Sarah and her new boyfriend, a famous singer, are also spending the week there.
With Segel writing his own scenes, it’s no surprise that he would play the same kind of character that he’s used to: a somewhat clueless, well-intentioned goofball. Though funny at times, Peter doesn’t gain respect from the audience. He is forced to carry the first half of the movie but can’t quite do so with only weak jokes and puppy-dog looks in his arsenal.
The only excitement in the beginning comes from a full-frontal nude scene, which might initially invite disapproval from the audience for its cheap comic appeal. However, the shockingly long duration of the, um, “scene,” redeems Segel by showing that he isn’t doing it just to make the audience laugh, but to make them as uncomfortable as possible.
If you can endure the first half of the film, you’ll be rewarded with the introduction of the supporting cast in the second half. As with his other films, Apatow was able to reach into his bag of funny “average Joe” sidekicks and pull out Bill Hader (“Superbad”), Paul Rudd (“Knocked Up”), Jonah Hill (“Superbad”), and newcomer Russell Brand.
Together, these actors create the most ridiculous, most unrealistic, and most hilarious characters. Rudd plays a flaky surfing instructor who gives Peter bits of advice, such as, “When life gives you lemons, just say ‘Fuck the lemons!’ and bail.” Brand is the ultra-cool, ultra-skinny, ultra-British singer Aldous Snow, who is so hip that even Peter can’t help but like him—even when Snow steals the scenes they share. After the slow first half, the funny, well-timed delivery of lines from these characters gives the audience a pleasant surprise.
From the beginning, the basic plot is pretty clear, so it wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that after average-guy Peter gets dumped by hot girlfriend, he meets new, hotter girl (Mila Kunis, “That 70s Show”). When ex-girlfriend wants Peter back, hotter girl gets jealous, and conflict ensues. What makes the film worth watching, or course, is not its clichéd plot but rather the one-liners exchanged by its supporting cast. The trio of Brand, Rudd, and Hader proves memorable and hilarious, but one can—and should—forget “Sarah Marshall.”