Film Flashback: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

Glen Wilson/Universal Studios
Resort receptionist Rachel Jansen (MILA KUNIS) and struggling musician Peter Bretter (JASON SEGEL) enjoy a quiet moment on the beach.

Taking a look at one of my favorite guaranteed to get me out of a crappy mood and crying from laughter comedies.

Everyone from Halle Berry to your oddball, smelly cousin has been dumped, which makes “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” so easy to relate to, but it’s the film’s unpredictable nature, great characters and hilarious script that makes it the comedy of the year.

Peter Bretter’s (Jason Segel, “How I Met Your Mother”) perfect life gets shattered when his celebrity girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell, “Heroes”) tells him she’s leaving him for another man.

Glen Wilson/Universal Studios
Actress Sarah Marshall (KRISTEN BELL) and her new boyfriend, rocker Aldous Snow (RUSSELL BRAND).

The great comedies have one moment that stands out in your mind when you reflect on it and for this it’s when Sarah breaks up with Pete and there’s some nudity — alas sadly not Bell, but Segel who proudly lets it all hang out for the sake of his craft. It’s a funny scene in a “wow, is he ever going to put on any clothes???” kind of way.

Segel, yet another of Judd Apatow’s “Freaks and Geeks” alumni, proves to be quite the big screen talent and is a double threat as he’s the film’s star and screenwriter. Segel is clearly a child of the 1980s. The film is peppered with numerous pop culture references that will definitely hit home with the target audience. [2012 FF: Without clobbering you over the head with them like “Ted.”]

It helps that he doesn’t have those Brad Pitt movie star looks and more closely resembles the average Joe who you could buy having trouble getting over a girl as out of his league as Bell.

Glen Wilson/Universal Studios
Liz (LIZ CACKOWSKI) and Brian Bretter (BILL HADER) try to offer Peter advice.

Peter first tries to get over Sarah in some disastrous bar-hopping encounters with his brother, Brian, (Bill Hader in one of those great supporting roles that you’d want him to have more screen time, but he has just the right amount so all of his scenes are really funny) and realizes the random hook-ups are not for him.

With that not working well, Peter takes Brian’s advice to take a vacation and figures he’ll be far enough away from Sarah in Hawaii. Those plans come crashing down almost immediately when he sees Sarah on the island as well with her new rock star boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand, “Penelope.”)

Brand is hilarious and his performance, which seems slightly influenced by Johnny Depp’s Capt. Jack Sparrow from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films with its slurred, rapid-fire delivery really makes Aldous a memorable and even likable character. That’s pretty amazing considering in most of these romantic comedies, Aldous would be the jerk you’re rooting against, but here, he’s a welcome presence in every scene. [2012 FF: I loved the character just as much in “Get Him to the Greek” until that really weird, awkward three-way scene…]

Glen Wilson/Universal Studios
Mila Kunis is resort receptionist Rachel Jansen.

Peter finds some solace in the cute hotel receptionist Rachel (Mila Kunis, “That 70s Show”) who befriends him and just might help him get over Sarah after all.

The film also has some great random casting with established stars like Paul Rudd, William Baldwin and Jonah Hill taking small cameo roles and making their characters so quirky that they’re not the stock supporting cast members you’d typically expect. They look like they’re having fun and as a result, you will too. [2012 FF:This is one of the better ensemble comedy casts, but my favorite role player has to be Jack McBrayer’s stressed out newlywed, Darald, who’s terrified at the thought of having sex with his new bride.]

Nicholas Stoller makes his directorial debut and it’s obvious he hasn’t been “tainted” by the established mindset of how to film a romantic comedy as he has a “anything goes” mentality. In some scenes, he’ll go for the obvious laugh like Aldous writhing around on stage singing to Sarah and Peter crying for hours on end, then in others he’ll completely do the unexpected so there’s none of the boring clichés that bog down so many in this genre.

Fans of “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” will love “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” It’s just a realistic take of the pratfalls of dating and the end of relationships. It’s a guy’s romantic comedy, but sweet and honest enough to be a hit with the female audience as well. Highly recommended.

Glen Wilson/Universal Studios
(From left) Matthew (JONAH HILL), Rachel (MILA KUNIS), Peter (JASON SEGEL), Aldous (RUSSELL BRAND) and Sarah (KRISTEN BELL) share an awkward moment.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Buy on Blu-Ray: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Unrated Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)

Buy on DVD: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Unrated Widescreen Edition)

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