Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Forget those flaws

Paul Rudd and I challenge you to dislike this movie.

Sometimes it’s tough to like Judd Apatow. I liked The 40 Year Old Virgin, loved Knocked Up, and tolerated Superbad — it’s not really the movies themselves that provoke these qualms. It’s the fact that the guy puts out a few good movies and all of a sudden he’s arrogant enough to have his own BRAND of film? Now a “Judd Apatow” film doesn’t mean that Apatow himself had anything to do with it, it means that the film was created under a certain set of principles (touching comedies about less than perfect dudes) and most likely feature one or more cast members from Freaks and Geeks.

Let’s be honest, though. The Apatow empire exists because of us — because movie studio execs know that you and I are going to fork over cash to see a still somehow fresh brand of comedy with a little meat on its bones. It’s true. These movies are damn funny. So damn funny that EVEN I am willing to ignore the occasional backslide into disturbing misogyny (depending on the circumstances, of course) and allow myself to just be entertained.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall has the benefit of this kind of script, the script that makes or breaks an otherwise ho-hum plot. Funny, inventive, full of characters, multi-dimensional, never boring, and only slightly flawed (Mila Kunis‘s character is dull and unconvincing, and it seems the filmmakers couldn’t quite agree on whether or not to villainize Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell)), Jason Segel‘s screenplay is clearly a labor of love. And even more so than Knocked Up, maybe, Forgetting Sarah Marshall has the benefit of universality. We’ve all seen relationships wither, we’ve all felt like it was the end of the world, and we’ve all run into our ex and their current paramour frolicking in bathing suits in Hawaii.* That being said, though, heartbreak is not exactly the most unique subject for a film, but neither was Knocked Up‘s “unlikely people fall in love” theme.

The difference is in the details. Any of Russell Brand‘s lines – or even movements – could have singlehandedly saved this movie from disaster. As Albous Snow, Sarah’s spidery, STDed British rock star new boyfriend, Brand manages to depart from the stereotype of pure pop idiocy and instead creates some sort of long-legged version of The (BBC) Office‘s David Brent, while also remaining affable, self-obsessed, and almost blase about his own sexual prowess — all at once! Hardly anything he does is what’s expected, and you find yourself on the same boat as Jason Segel’s Peter, the main character, as he tries really hard to hate his rival but instead keeps having to admit to himself that the guy is pretty effing cool.

Director Nicholas Stoller did an admirable job with the quick, sharp flashbacks that pepper the film’s forward motion. They make jokes jokier a la Family Guy, of course, but the fast-paced splicing also adds depth that helps Forgetting Sarah Marshall angle for a spot among the numerous “real” comedies that have proudly received acclaim in recent months. I can’t promise that this film will hold its own in the pantheon of Apatow films for long (the Pineapple Express trailer is probably the best trailer ever). it’s true that uneven editing and continuity plague this film throughout,** but it’s almost a testament to the writing — and a relief to the rest of you — that I didn’t dwell on it. I’m too busy repeating quotes from the movie and giggling like a freaking frat boy. I’m not too proud to reveal that we were doing this before we even left the theater.

**The boring Rachel (Mila Kunis) is retouched in some shots and not in others. Hair is one way, then another. We even saw some booms (but I think something may have been wrong with the alignment in our theater).

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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