‘Forgetting’ Funny But Flawed

by Ian T. McFarland on April 18, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  • IMDB: link

I think the only thing more invincible than Judd Apatow’s reputation at this point is Jesus with a bazooka gun.  The er’ talked about mega-producer has put out the most important comedies of the last few years, with Talladega Nights and Superbad just barely scraping the surface of his résumé.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall, like its subject matter, is broken up.  Everything going on in front of the camera is light, funny and likable; but the shots being called behind it is just the opposite – artificial and irritating.  This lack of chemistry between the elements, despite being an enjoyable picture, drags it all down.

So Peter (Jason Segal) is this musician scoring television shows who lucks out big time when he starts dating the star of the show he works for, the namesake Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell).  But after a relationship that spans years, Sarah leaves his ass, and leaves it in shambles.  Trying to get over his broken heart, Peter takes a vacation at a Hawaiian resort that, little does he realize, is already being vacationed at by his ex.  Insert annoying onomatopoeia like “Zing!” or, my personal favorite, “Sizzle!” here.

But this resort isn’t all Heart-Break Hotel for Peter.  While there, he makes a bunch of new friends – one of which happens to be hot (Mila Kunis) and interested in the guy.

Segal makes a great debut in the picture.  Not only is he funny and endearing as the lead, but he wrote a quality script for the picture too.  It can feel like it’s wandering away from the plot of the film sometimes, but for the most part it’s an authentic account of breaking up that takes advantage of the audiences messy memories of leaving someone.

But for all of Segal’s strong suits, there’s a good deal of setback in the production.  The biggest problem is first time director Nicholas Stoller, whose lack of experience isn’t all that subtle.  He assembles a film resembling a scrapbook, with a long line of scenes –  a fair few of which feel more extraneous on the screen than they did on the page – that hardly segue together.  The end result is two hours’ worth of scenes too closely and uncomfortably cut together, cutting out a lot of space needed for the characters’ emotions to come through – it’s just supposed to be a parade of laughs.  The script and its actors are able to bring the warmth of the story through anyway, but it still feels fake.

It’s too bad, because if anyone else was given this script, even a basic, colorless comedy director like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry‘s Dennis Dugan, they would have been able to just step back and give us a straightforward adaptation of the script, and a fine movie with it.

In terms of being a comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall passes with ease.  Its jokes hit more than they miss, and the plot is something everyone can relate to and laugh about, but the direction of it all doesn’t work.  As a comedy, it’s worth seeing; but as a film – despite some fine work from Jason Segal – it’s just not quite there.

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