FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (Dir. Nicholas Stoller, 2008)

This is one I really wish I had seen when it came to theaters last spring. The raving reviews and accolades have piled up so much that by this point it can’t possibly be as funny as all that, can it? Almost comparable to the hype of THE DARK KNIGHT being immediately called one of the greatest films ever, this got an instant comedy classic stamp on it and I’ve seen it appear on several premature “best of 2008” so, yeah, my expectations couldn’t help from hitting the ceiling. Well, after watching it on DVD I can say that it definitely was far from a letdown with many laughs and likable characters though not exactly the experience Richard Roeper gushed about: “I want to just get down on my knees and declare my undying love for this movie”. Boston Globe critic Ty Burr also seemed a bit over the top when he wrote: “it delivers belly laughs that explode from the meeting of wit and shock”. But to be honest, I believe that if I had seen it on its original release I probably wouldve gotten carried away and might have said some similar things too.

Sure, it has a flimsy sitcom premise – boy loses girl, boy goes on Hawaiian vacation in order to get over girl, boy runs into girl with her new boyfriend who happen to be staying at the same resort, crude wackiness ensues etc. but the whole deal is as affable as its protagonist. The boy is Jason Segel whose persona as a hapless schmuck he began perfecting on the late great one seasoner Freaks And Geeks. He’s an LA musician who writes incidental music for a CSI-derived TV drama starring his girlfriend (Kristen Bell). Bell tells him that their 5 year relationship is over in a scene that sets the tone by featuring Segel refusing to put clothes on as his heart breaks: Oh, would you like to pick out the outfit that you break up with me in?!!? Segel, who wrote the screenplay, appears to have no shame portraying a guy who feels nothing but shame as he cries in the nude and shakes uncontrollably in emotional pain while eating from an oversized bowl of cereal.

After some comic consoling by his best friend (SNL’s Bill Hader who spends most of the film as a head on a laptop) he makes that fateful trip to one of the world’s most famous vacation spots and, yep, he has to face his former love in the arms of a major pop star played by the sleazily charming Brit Russell Brand. Luckily there’s Mila Kunis (That 70’s Show, voice of Meg Griffin on Family Guy) as a flirting hotel clerk that may be the key to helping him recover (you think?), Paul Rudd as a perpetually stoned surfer, Jonah Hill as Matthew the Waiter who is obviously hiding a man crush on Brand, and a Christian newlywed couple (30 Rock’s Jack McBayer and newcomer Taylor Wily) who are definitely not having a good go at consummating their marriage.

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL is another in the series of Judd Apatow produced flicks about pop culture obsessed immature men coping with growing up as they endure a plethora of awkward sexual circumstances – i.e. THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, KNOCKED UP, and SUPERBAD. It helps that this has a few somewhat plausible female characters and an actual moral code beneath the scatological silliness. None of things realy matters though as what folks were raving about is simply how freakin funny this flick is. It is certainly much funnier than many comedies, especially recent rom coms (a genre this film seems to want to reconstruct by way of just add more dick jokes) so maybe those people were on to something. But comedy classic? Lets just give it some more time and I’ll get back to you.

Post Notes – Bonus Material With A Shout Out: There is not much difference between the unrated extended version and the theatrical cut on the DVD except for some excised lines and a mildly amusing Kristen Wiig (SNL) yoga class scene. The gag reel is, like the movie, funnier than most flicks flubs while the patented Apatow “line-o-rama has a lot of great alternate lines like Segels reaction to Kuniss over-reaction to seeing her ex-boyfriend: “You were like David O. Russell when he was yelling at Lily Tomlin! Jonah Hill has some good unused ones too: “I think its cool though, you just come and eat dinner by yourself. I wouldnt do it, I would rather stay in the room and jerk it, if you know what Im saying? Dont tell anybody I said that.

The shout-out goes to the great barely known comic actor Bill Hader who was in a couple of other possible future comedy classics over the last few months. Though many would classify them as bit parts – his turns as Private Miller in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and studio executive Rob Slolom in TROPIC THUNDER, which had him hold his own up against Tom Cruise, are great sideline roles. With hope he will get some more substantial film work alongside his current gig at SNL but with projects like NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2 and something called CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS on his cinematic horizon, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

More later…

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