“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is one of the best comedies I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s certainly the out-and-out funniest comedy I’ve seen since “Superbad.”
That the film is this funny shouldn’t come as a surprise, since it is produced by Judd Apatow, who also produced “Superbad,” and who wrote and directed “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
I went into the theater for “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” expecting to see all the things that comprise a typical Apatovian comedy: a ne’er-do-well (some might say slacker) main character who is nonetheless endearing, torrents of profane, raunchy dialogue and a story about growing up disguised in and amongst a bunch of jokes about sex and genitalia.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” delivers on all these fronts, and yet, despite the film’s formulaic structure, it also exceeded my expectations because Jason Segel plays such a likable and relatable character, because his script is boundlessly funny and because every single actor gives go-for-the-gusto performances. This is the kind of movie you will remember fondly months after seeing it.
The film’s premise is so familiar I hesitate describing it in much detail, but here is the basic outline: Peter Bretter (Segel) gets dumped by his T.V. star girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristin Bell) and decides to go to Hawaii to lick his wounds.
Except, as coincidence would have it, Sarah is there with her new beau, a lecherous British rock star named Aldous Snow (Russell Banks), thus complicating Peter’s quest to get any closure.
Peter’s saving grace is his relationship with the alternately sweet and assertive Rachael (Mila Kunis), a receptionist at the hotel where Peter is staying.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is brimming with funny scenes, many of them courtesy to Banks, whose performance as the satyr-like Aldous Snow is some kind of masterpiece.
I especially loved Snow’s monologue about a lost sandal, where Banks’ delivery manages to recall the comic timing of both Ricky Gervais and Monty Python.
And then there’s Segal, who humiliates himself for our entertainment, appearing completely nude in the opening scene and weeping unrepentantly throughout much of the rest of the film. That Peter manages to come off as sympathetic and convincing is a tribute to Segal.
Like nearly all of the movies associated with Apatow, there’s something deeper at work in this ostensibly juvenile comedy.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is just as much about Peter’s struggle to mature as it is about his attempt to get over his ex. (And kudos to Segal for writing uncharacteristically nuanced female characters; both Sarah and Rachael are given far more depth than typical female characters in an Apatow movie.)
Anyone looking for an enormously funny film that wears its heart on both sleeves needs to see “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”
Staff writer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.