Forgetting Sarah Marshall ***1/2
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is yet another comedy film that is out that has Mr. Judd Apatow being involved, and while he is really getting the most credit for these box office hits, this film really belongs to Jason Segal, and it is him that give the most credit to-for not only does he act in this, but he also wrote the entire screenplay as well. Apatow had a hand in the script and the direction for "Knocked Up" and "The 40 Year Old Virgin," but he should stick on the producers side as his direction is often choppy and his editing skills need quite a bit of work. His improvisational feeling just doesn't do much for me, and "Virgin" only got a pass on that because it was Apatow's first-I would have hoped he improved for his second film but he did not. As for "Sarah Marshall," this is perhaps the best Apatow produced comedy since "Superbad." In between there was the very funny "Walk Hard" and the kind of awful "Drillbit Taylor," which I did not even bother to review here.
Segal, who certainly steals the show on the weekly TV series "How I Met Your Mother," plays Peter, a composer for a lame CSI type television series who is given the shock of his life when his long time actress girlfriend, and the star of that show, ends up breaking up with him. Peter goes into a cycle of self-pity, spending days without leaving his house and making himself depressed by sleeping with tons of women in meaningless one night stands. Hating his job doesn't help either, and Peter spends some of his free time attempting to write a musical opera based on 'Dracula." When his stepbrother Brian suggests that he take a trip somewhere to escape from the thought of Sarah, Peter hops on a plane to Hawaii without any hotel reservations to try it out. Booking himself into a hotel and gaining the support of the receptionist Rachel, Peter soon learns that Sarah is on vacation with her new boyfriend, the British rock star Aldous Snow-whose first scene has his looking for his other shoe which he describes as "like this one, only the opposite-but not like the evil version of it, just the other one." Instead of fleeing, Peter decides to stay at the hotel, staying in the most expensive room in the hotel free of charge (as long as he cleans it up himself), and he also begins to befriend some of the more colorful people around the hotel, including Matthew, a waiter who has an obsession with Aldous. And then he is able to find love again when he begins to fall for Rachel.
What makes these movies so successful-with the strong exception of "Drillbit Taylor," which was just a waste of effort and time-is that they manage to take tiresome material, have the stories end in the way that you expect it to, but they are just so wonderfully written and their characters are so well drawn out. While some of the actions of the characters here are questionable, there isn't a single person in this film that I did not enjoy seeing when they were on the screen-even the hated and stuck up Aldous Snow, who still has some great lines and a cool persona that one cannot help but fall under-which makes us understand why Sarah would want him instead of the self-pitying Peter. Sarah as well-played well by Kristen Bell-does not go for the villain type here, and she has some moments where you actually feel sorry for her, and can understand her ending the relationship. It's a very three dimensional role in a character that could have easily been turned into something else. And she has a good time poking fun at her own role in movies and television shows. Bell is primarily a TV actor, and she led "Veronica Mars" and now she's in "Heros," and I believe she does something on that show "Gossip Girl," and every now and then she finds herself in a movie, usually nothing good. There is a very funny scene here at a dinner with Peter and Rachel eating with Aldous and Sarah. Sarah-a TV actress in a terrible show that co-stars Billy Baldwin-is talking about a bad horror movie that she did recently, which she defends-a story about a mobile phone which has an agenda to kill people. Sarah proclaims "It's just a metaphor for our obsession and reliance on technology," while Aldous goes "No, it's a metaphor for a crap movie." She is clearly making a jab at "Pulse," a rather awful horror film which came out about two years ago. And all of the side characters manage to be entertaining, and when one of them wasn't on the screen there was one equally good to make up for it. By the end of the movie I was somewhat sad, only because I wanted an excuse to hang out with some of these characters for a little more-the two hours really did fly by.
And then there is Segel himself-Peter-who wrote this wonderful screenplay, and doesn't mind really baring himself for the world to see-and I mean that figuratively and literally and there is enough full frontal nudity to appease the female crowd. But he doesn't mind looking like hell for the cameras in scenes, or just depicting himself as a putz at times-yet he is so likable and enjoyable to watch, so you actually can pity him even when you see him sit around the house wearing sweatpants for a week, in one of the films funniest segments. So in a film like this, where the resolution is quite obvious for everyone who is watching, it is the journey that counts, and that is where "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is successful. It is sweet, smart, and just massively funny, hopefully sealing Segel as a actor that we will see more and more in comedies.