Forgetting Sarah Marshall
directed by Nicholas Stoller
(Universal, 2008)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of those films you approach with low expectations. Despite an intriguing cast -- I've enjoyed both Kristen Bell and Jason Segel on TV -- it just didn't look much different from the constant flood of romantic comedies that threaten to overwhelm the cineplex with a tropical tsunami of blandness.

Forget that. It's hilarious.

And quirky. SO quirky.

We can lay the credit for the film's quirkiness to Segel, who wrote the movie before starring in it. And some of the best scenes -- from his naked breakup in the beginning to his puppet "Dracula" musical at the end -- are drawn from his own, apparently very quirky life.

The movie tells the sad tale of Peter Bretter (Segel), a moderately successful Hollywood musician, who loses his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Bell), a majorly successful TV star, to Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), a narcissistic British rock singer. Bretter, unable to shake the blues, takes off for a solo holiday in Hawaii -- and, of course, finds himself at the same resort where Marshall and Snow are frolicking. There, sympathetic resort hostess Rachel Jansen (Mila Kunis) does her best to salve Bretter's woes -- with hilarious and quirky results.

The thing is, I expected to enjoy Segel's and Bell's performances -- and I did, thoroughly -- but I expected far less from Kunis and, especially, Brand, whose role seemed from the previews to be more caricature than character. And yet I was surprised to be proven wrong on both counts. Kunis is a poised and delightful leading lady, handling comedy and romance and, yes, some feisty anger with style. And Brand gives the shallow Snow surprising depths, making him human and believable without losing an iota of comic potential. I hope to see both of them -- OK, hell, all four of them -- making some big moves in the big screen in the future.

A truly fun supporting cast -- primarily resort employees and fellow vacationers -- makes Forgetting Sarah Marshall a film to remember.

By the way, despite two extra-scrumptious Hollywood babes in the cast, the movie earns its R rating -- besides a forgettable sex montage near the beginning -- with a naked Jason Segel. And yes, I mean a really naked Jason Segal. Really. Naked. Be warned.

review by
Tom Knapp

1 November 2008

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