Forgetting Sarah Marshall
3 stars out of 4
In the space of just three years, filmmaker Judd Apatow has all but cornered the market on the once-floundering adult romantic comedy genre. In the capacity of producer, director and/or writer, Apatow has created an instantly recognizable brand name that pulls off a rare hat trick: He pleases audiences and critics and makes a bunch of money for the studios. Apatow can rightfully be referred to as a mogul.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" adheres to the basic Apatow blueprint. Geeky guy gets the ultra-hot girl (in this case, two), loses them and spends most of his time exchanging vulgar one-liners and sight gags with lovable but largely vacant supporting characters. It's at once risqué and corny, charming and offensive, high and low brow.
As the film's producer, Apatow again returns to his seemingly endless stable of former "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared" TV players to populate the movie. In the lead is Jason Segel (who also wrote the screenplay) as Peter, a musician and composer who gets dumped by Sarah (Kristen Bell), the star of a "CSI" inspired TV drama for which Peter provides the backing score.
After Sarah ends their five-year relationship, Peter becomes a total basket case. He whimpers like a little girl and stays locked up in his apartment for weeks until his cousin Brian (Bill Hader) convinces him to pick up and move on.
In one of the film's few contrived twists, Peter heads to Hawaii and to the same hotel where Sarah is staying with her new English rocker boyfriend Aldous (scene-stealer Russell Brand). Quickly recognizing the brewing awkwardness of the situation, hotel clerk Rachel (Mila Kunis) gives Peter a complimentary luxury suite and offers him an understanding and diversionary shoulder to cry on.
The rest of the slightly overlong story plays out pretty much as expected and if this had been a non-Apatow, PG-13 rated movie, it would have resulted in just another generic, instantly forgettable rom-com.
Unlike with teen forbearers such as "Porky's" and "American Pie," Apatow's posse doesn't toss in vulgarity and profanity willy-nilly or for mere shock value. It's all there for a reason; mostly to give men a reason to actually want to go see what is essentially a chick flick. It's a great date movie, but not a very good first date movie. Couples electing to go should be established in their relationships and comfortable with bawdy and raw situations. If not, they should probably take it in with someone of their own gender who shares their tastes in movies.
There's no reason to believe the Apatow juggernaut can't continue into the distant future without losing any steam. Above all things he is a great manager and has an uncanny ability to delegate power while spreading the wealth. Everyone gets a chance to shine and display their collective mettle. (Universal)