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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Synopsis

From the producers of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up comes a comic look at one guy’s arduous quest to grow up and get over the heartbreak of being dumped—if he can only make himself start Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Struggling musician Peter Bretter (Jason Segel, Knocked Up, How I Met Your Mother) has spent six years idolizing his girlfriend, television star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars). He’s the guy left holding her purse in paparazzi photos and accidentally omitted from acceptance award speeches. But his world is rocked when she dumps him and Peter finds himself alone. After an unsuccessful bout of womanizing and an on-the-job nervous breakdown, he sees that not having Sarah may just ruin his life.

To clear his head, Peter takes an impulsive trip to Oahu, where he is confronted by his worst nightmare: his ex and her tragically hip new British-rocker boyfriend, Aldous (Russell Brand), are sharing his hotel. But as he torments himself with the reality of Sarah’s new life, he finds relief in a flirtation with Rachel (Mila Kunis), a beautiful resort employee whose laid-back approach tempts him to rejoin the world. He also finds relief in several hundred embarrassing, fruity cocktails.

For anyone who has ever had their heart ripped out and cut into a billion pieces comes a hilarious, heartfelt look at relationships—featuring Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader and Jack McBrayer. Part romantic comedy, part disaster film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the world’s first romantic disaster comedy.

Frat Pack Tribute Interviews and Previews

Our Senior Editor Rick Duran visited the set and participated as an extra during the film's red carpet scene.

Our Senior Editor Kevin Crossman attended the preview at WonderCon and interviewed talent from the movie

Press Round-Table Interviews - audio and transcript

Review

by Rick Duran

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the latest product from Team Apatow, in which Jason Segel leads a talented ensemble through a series of uncomfortable moments and broad laughs.  Set around a poorly-timed trip to Hawaii, this amusing film allows star and writer Segel to successfully introduce himself to the audience, while following a familiar formula and appeal that has crafter yet another winner. 

Segel stars as Peter Bretter, a television composer for the show starring his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell.)  After Sarah ends their long-term relationship, leaving him with literally nothing but his “manhood,” a depressed Peter flies to Hawaii for a desperately needed vacation.  Unfortunately, Peter happens to be staying at the same island resort where Sarah has escaped to with her new rock star boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand.)  As Peter falls deeper into a depressed funk, he reinvigorates himself with the help of a beautiful hotel receptionist named Rachel ( Mila Kunis.)  The plot is pretty basic, with a storyline that is easy to predict.  However, the same comment could be made for Knocked Up, and like that previous blockbuster, Forgetting Sarah Marshall takes a mundane plot, crafting it into the funniest film so far this year.

First time director Nicholas Stoller has carefully assembled such a comedic dynamite ensemble, including the Apatow Productions mainstays Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill and Bill Hader, in addition to the previously mention four lead actors.  While those three comedians score the huge laughs you expect them to, there are also hilarious scene-stealing performances from Jack McBrayer (Talladega Nights, NBC’s 30 Rock) as nervous honeymooner and Da'Vone McDonald (Drillbit Taylor) as the resort’s gentle giant of a bartender.  Stoller’s direction and Segel’s script follow the Apatow formula of comedic leads with emotions, improvised lines (“You look like a ____”), multiple sex scenes, intelligent/independent female leads and intense dramatic arguments.  But there is also plenty to keep this project fresh.

By now, you’ve read about Segel’s full frontal nude scene(s), and it’s as explicit as you’d expect.  But Stoller has directed and timed those shots for more than just laughs; the nudity leaves you as shocked and uncomfortable as Peter is.  Speaking of discomfort, a lot of the humor is based on awkward situations, such as Hill’s character so engulfed by his own creepy obsession with Brand.  In fact, this mastering of awkward situations is best executed in a scene where the two couples have dinner together and Sarah is forced to defend a bad movie she made; while Peter bonds with the man sleeping with his ex, his new girlfriend is forced to back-up the embarrassed Sarah Marshall.  Another incredibly executed scene is when Peter reveals to Rachel the Dracula musical he’s been composing.  Nothing can prepare you for the singing performance Segel delivers in this scene; it rivals Steve Carell’s unexpected “Aquarius” musical number.  This performance is the heart of why Segel elevates this entire film.  His character is charming because of how pathetic he really is. 

The first and second acts of the film feature a lot of Peter crying, and yet we stay with him, never losing our sympathy for such a self-destructive character. Much as Knocked Up demonstrated perfectly, Forgetting Sarah Marshall also reminds us that our protagonist is not an entire hero either.  While we cheer for him to find happiness, the script makes us understand and sympathize with Sarah for dumping him.  In fact, all of Bill Hader’s best lines are at the expense of how laughable Peter really is.  That where the talented ensemble comes into play. McBrayer, Rudd, Kunis, and McDonald all guide Peter on his road to recovery.  Many of these characters are simple, but they each have elements of heart that serve a purpose in this story.  Even the Aldous Snow character, who performs an over-the-top song dedicated to being “inside” Sarah, helps Peter realize the hidden brilliance in his otherwise ridiculous Dracula musical. In fact, what makes Brand’s performance so amusing is his ability to be both a walking caricature and surprisingly insightful, in scenes with both Peter and Sarah.  The two female performances are solid with what they have to work with (make no mistake; this is a movie where the boys bring the funny.) Kristen Bell has some solid scenes where we see the confused, desperate moments of a woman regretting her mistakes in career and relationships. Mila Kunis is sharp and witty in a performance that recalls last year’s charming role from Emma Stone in Superbad.

There are some issues with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, such as the previously mentioned predictable storyline.  Like previous Team Apatow efforts, the runtime is near two-hours, and there are some scenes that feel out of place, such as an uneven encounter with Rachel’s ex-boyfriend.  But the film, like its predecessors, is also hilarious enough to sustain the laughs throughout, even cutting tension in some of the dramatic moments.  The film is a smart mix of R-Rated laughs, awkward sex and natural charm that delivers from start to finish.  It’s exciting to watch Segel, yet another largely-unknown face from Judd’s vault, emerge as one of Hollywood’s top new talents.  It shows that this type of sex comedy is still viable, and we can’t wait to see who will be the next funny co-star given a shot at the comedy steering wheel.

*****

Articles

Hawaii Location

The film shot for about 30 days on Oahu, all but seven at the Turtle Bay Resort. Hawaii filming completed on June 8, 2007 according to local reports.

There are a number of on-set spy photos floating around the internet.

Moriarity from Ain't It Cool News had an extensive Hawaiian set-visit and is now bringing us his reports:

Photos and Posters