Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Date: April 19, 2008
Location: AMC Sunset Place

The latest film from Judd Apatow and gang (thought he neither wrote nor directed this one), Forgetting Sarah Marshall has the big laughs and the earnestness of earlier hits such as The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad without ever reaching their heights in terms of overall quality.

Jason Segal, an Apatow staple from Freaks & Geeks on, is the most recent atypical leading man to carry one of these films. There’s a bit of a backlash out there about all these movies featuring slacker schlubs landing such great women but I say to hell with that — it’s nice to see men who are attractive primarily due to their sense of humor win the day for a change. And Segal does a fine job as a heartbroken dumpee who travels to Hawaii to forget the break-up only to run into his ex-girlfriend at the hotel. Kristen Bell doesn’t have much to do other than look cute as the ex, but she’s pretty good at looking cute.

It’s the supporting players who are most memorable, particulary Mila Kunis and Rusell Brand as the other love interests in the leads’ lives. Kunis, whom I know only from a couple seasons of That 70s Show, has grown into a stunningly beautiful actress with a confident, relaxed vibe and nice comic timing. Brand, whom I don’t know at all, steals the show as an alternately oblivious and perceptive British rock star. He delivers some of the movie’s biggest laugh lines. Apatow regulars Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill show up in glorified cameos, and 30 Rock‘s Jack McBrayer has a great turn as an uptight Christian on honeymoon.

A fun night out, but far from a classic… Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the Weird Science to Knocked Up‘s Breakast Club, if you buy into the premise that Judd Apatow is a Gen-X John Hughes.

8 thoughts on “Forgetting Sarah Marshall

  1. Dana says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed the movie. I disagree, however, that this movie takes a backseat to Knocked Up or Superbad. I actually liked this movie better than Superbad, and fairly close to Knocked Up. Perhaps it is the expectations factor rearing its ugly head here–since the reviews have been very good and we saw the movie before you and were obviously very high on it.

    Anyway, I agree that the love interest was stunningly beautiful and the British rocker was great.

  2. Clay says:

    Actually, I think your expectations were probably higher, having seen the Roeper rave. I talked to Amy before seeing the film and she didn’t rave about it — she said it was funny and I’d enjoy it, and she was absolutely right on both counts. But I didn’t go in expecting a masterpiece.

    I thought Marshall was a little more generic than Superbad… I hadn’t seen a male friendship portrayed like the one in that film, while this film didn’t break any new ground. Knocked Up is probably the most consistently hilarious film I’ve seen in more than a decade, so for me this doesn’t come close.

    That said, it’s definitely a worthy film and worthy of the #1 spot on all of our lists!

  3. Dana says:

    Actually, my expectations weren’t all that high because I had not found the previews to be that funny.

    As you know, I was not as high on Superbad as you, finding a fair amount of the film to be too slapsticky and uneven. By contrast, I found Marshall to be a far more even and mature comedy. I found dimension in the characters that was a bit lacking in the otherwise funny Knocked Up. Marshall deserves all of the accolades it is receiving. It works wonderfully as a romantic comedy.

    And, by the way, I’m not sure if you believe Apatow is this generation’s John Hughes or you are merely referencing what others have said. For my part, I think Hughes was clearly aiming at a different audience (teenagers) while Apatow is targeting young adults (like me:)) Also, Knocked Up, as good as it was, was no Breakfast Club. And Marshall was MUCH better than the relatively forgettable Weird Science.

  4. Clay says:

    Don’t be dissing Weird Science, now! 🙂 I think the Hughes comparison (which I have read) is appropriate in that Apatow, like Hughes, has created a distinctive brand of comedic films populated by a recurring set of actors. But he certainly covers people in their 20s as opposed to people in their teens.

    I don’t see a whole lot of dimension in the characters of any of these films, to be honest. But I definitely see more depth in the Katherine Heigl and Leslie Mann characters in Knocked Up than in either of the female leads in Marshall. And the Paul Rudd/Leslie Mann marriage was suprisingly nuanced, and sometimes painful to watch. I didn’t see anything in Marshall to compare to that. I also don’t think that was the intent, though, so I don’t offer that up as a criticism of the film at all.

  5. Dana says:

    Apatow does not draw comparison to Hughes by simply having a base of actors/writers doing comedy films. They follow in the footsteps in that regard of Woody Allen, Coen Brothers, Spike Lee, to name a few…

    I disagree with you as to the depth of the female characters in Marshall. I thought they were fairly nuanced and the male lead was far more interesting, dimensional and nuanced thean Rogen in Knocked Up (that critique comes courtesy of Amy, but I second it and adopt it here).

    Anyway, we are again doing what Amy says we do far too often (but so well:))–which is splitting hairs when we all clearly liked the film, though we liked it a bit more than you did (and liked Superbad a bit less)

  6. Clay says:

    “It’s pretty ridiculous to hear people talk about the movies we’ve been doing, with outrageous humor and sweetness all combined, as if they were an original idea. I mean, it was all there first in John Hughes’ films. Whether it’s ‘Freaks and Geeks’ or ‘Superbad,’ the whole idea of having outsiders as the lead characters, that all started with Hughes.” – Judd Apatow

    I definitely see the similarities between their films… especially in the way they seem to take place in their own little universe. For Hughes it’s usually “Shermer, Illinois” while Apatow tends to center his characters in Los Angeles, but both are fictional twists on those real-world places. At any rate, I don’t want to get carried away defending that analogy (which isn’t even mine).

    The female characters in Marshall were fine, I just don’t think they had the complexity of Hiegl or Mann. There was a lot of Oscar buzz early on for both of them (inevitably dropped because it was a summer film and a comedy — kiss of death on both fronts) but I don’t see that happening for Kunis or Bell. Segal’s character was more nuanced than Rogen’s, I agree. But not as funny!

    And yes, we are definitely splitting hairs, but that’s the great fun of doing this!

  7. Dana says:

    So you keep trying to have the last word, huh? As if its YOUR blog!

    I think Segal was every bit as funny as Rogen.

    That’s all I have to say 🙂

  8. Clay says:

    I think you need to rewatch Knocked Up. And with that, I’m out!

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