From the Friday, April 18 Oregonian:
Judd Apatow-produced comedies tend to revolve around schlumpy men hurt, befuddled or frightened by women (see: "Knocked Up," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Superbad" et al).
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is no exception.
The movie was written by Apatow regular Jason Segel (who was brilliant as a schlumpy teen in "Freaks and Geeks"). In "Sarah Marshall," Segel also plays the lead, Peter, a soundtrack composer for a lame TV show starring his girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell). Pete dreams of writing a puppet-theatre rock opera about Dracula (something Segel apparently once considered doing in real life). Mostly, he spends his day in sweats, eating Froot Loops and coasting on his modest charm and talent.
Until Sarah dumps him.
Peter devolves into a blubbering giant, listening to The Smiths in the ruins of his apartment. He flees to Hawaii. And of course, in one of those wacky rom-com coincidences, he ends up in the same resort hotel where Sarah is enjoying the favors of a free-sprited British rock star (Russell Brand). Awkwardness ensues. A cute desk clerk (Mila Kunis, very charming) may provide Peter with emotional succor.
On a basic-premise level, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" sounds like any number of rom-coms. But Segel and director Nicholas Stoller (who helmed episodes of the brilliant but fast-cancelled Apatow show "Undeclared") go to the trouble of making the little details funny and filthy, and they have fun messing with the formula.
Segel, for example, plays the supportive, commitment-craving dumpee -- the rom-com role that usually goes to a woman. (Bell, meanwhile, plays the player.) Segel also gets most of the movie's nude scenes, and as Jerry Seinfeld would put it, they are very "bad naked."
The supporting roles are sharp, too: Jack McBrayer (Kenneth on "30 Rock") is hilarious as a newlywed confused and repulsed by sex. Paul Rudd plays a 44-year-old surfer with no short-term memory. And Brand has a way of dryly throwing away his lines that makes his sleazy "other man" character impossible to hate. In fact, I usually found myself rooting for the British hedonist over Peter -- who's such a sad sack, it's nearly impossible to believe that Kunis, meeting him for the first time, would take such pity on him that she'd let him stay in a $6,000-a-night suite gratis.
That possible deal-breaker aside: Segel reportedly drew on his own romantic misadventures for the script, including that "bad naked" scene, and he works in a few sharp, honest moments -- especially during a montage of Peter's horrible one-night stands and during a funny/ugly dinner scene where everyone tries (and fails) to be "adult."
Make no mistake -- this isn't a relentless button-pushing joke machine like the best Apatow schlumpy-man comedies. I guess I'd describe it as "agreeably ribald."
B; 112 minutes, rated R for sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' (The Oregonian, April 18, 2008)