Dir: Nicholas Stoller. US. 2008. 112 mins.
The Judd Apatow comedy machine reaches new heights with this instant classic from director Nicholas Stoller, star/writer Jason Segel and producer Apatow. Consistently funny, remarkably tender and absolutely contemporary in its depiction of young twentysomethings, their social mores and concerns, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is destined for box office greatness, especially in North America where it is being aggressively promoted in advance of its April 18 opening by Universal Pictures. And big opening aside, it will stay in theatres for many weeks based on excellent word-of-mouth and repeat business.
International audiences have been less responsive than domestic to Apatow comedies so far and both Knocked Up and Superbad failed to generate even half of the domestic gross in overseas markets last year. Still heat from the US release will help to drive the no-star Sarah Marshall, especially now that the Apatow brand is increasingly appreciated on DVD. English-language territories in particular will relish this winning comedy.
Unlike the Farrelly Brothers, Apatow and his collaborators don't rely on puerile grossness to generate a laugh. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, like most Apatow movies since The 40 Year-Old Virgin, the story revolves around a romantically-challenged guy trying to kickstart his love life. The comedy is affectionate and self-deprecating, the characters three-dimensional and easy to relate to and the comic highlights are hilarious because they are believable rather than contrived.
There are at least three star-making turns here in addition to some sterling Apatow regulars in the cast. Chief among the revelations is Jason Segel, who was in Apatow's TV series Freaks And Geeks as well as Knocked Up, but who takes the lead in Forgetting Sarah Marshall - which he also wrote.
A lanky 6'4' actor with a vulnerable face and self- effacing style, Segel plays Peter Bretter, a struggling musician who makes a living from writing the brooding music for a TV procedural called Crime Scene which stars William Baldwin and Peter's girlfriend of five years Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell).
He lives the life of a teenager, hanging around his apartment composing music and eating cereal, but is deeply, sentimentally in love with Sarah.
But when one day she dumps him, saying she has met someone else, he is devastated and rudderless. As a way of clearing his head, he goes to Hawaii where he is confronted by a nightmare - Sarah and her hip British rocker boyfriend Aldous Snow (Brand) are staying at the same hotel resort on a romantic getaway.
Although initially a mess, Peter finds solace from friendship and possible romance with resort employee Rachel (Kunis) whose laissez-faire attitude to life and love brings him some comfort. But as he becomes stronger, Sarah starts to feel jealous of his newfound love.
In addition to Segel, Kunis and Brand turn in engaging comic performances here. Kunis, best known for her role as the dumb Jackie in That 70s Show, shows spot-on timing and earthy charm as Rachel, while Brand brings his outrageous stand-up persona to the big screen with ease, stealing scenes and upstaging all around him as the vulgar sex-crazed British star.
Stoller and Segel embellish the story with numerous tasty details and unexpected comic moments - several full-frontal shots of Segel, a Dracula musical with puppets, a TV procedural about an animal psychic - but none betray the authenticity of the characters or the story itself for the sake of a cheap laugh.
Indeed, the film never veers into arch territory, possessing such affection for its characters that not one of them, not even Sarah Marshall, comes off as the bad guy.
Director of photography
Russ T Alsobrook
Jackson De Govia