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Forgetting Sarah Marshall Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Image“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is another movie from producer Judd Apatow; it’s a blend of raunchy sexual humor and good-natured warmth, like “40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” and others from Apatow’s slate. It’s not as good as those, but it has its moments; it plays fair with its characters and the audience. It’s reasonably funny, but has an overall blandness that keeps it from taking off comedically.

Once again, a kind of slacker dude, getting along in life without making much headway, has a major crisis. Peter Bretter (Jason Segal, from “How I Met Your Mother”) is a Hollywood composer working on “Crime Scene,” the by-the-book police series starring his attractive girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). He crawls out of bed in his somewhat messy but handsome Hollywood home, pours a huge bowl of cereal, and sits down to watch gossip shows. He’s a bit annoyed to see Sarah on the show, apparently on a date with British rock star Aldous Snow (Russel Brand).

He’s more upset when Sarah drops by to regretfully tell him that after five and a half years, it’s all over between them. Peter’s stunned, horrified, incredulous; he drops his towel (he was taking a shower) and we all get to see his wang. We see it several times. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s a mystery to me why Apatow is determined to wipe out that particular movie barrier. (There was a clearly-visible penis in “Walk Hard,” too, but it didn’t belong to one of the stars.)

Peter has a tendency to break into shuddering sobs, embarrassing Sarah. She’s not a bad person, she’s just a young person, and a burgeoning (she hopes) star; she’s moving on. Peter begins moaning, mostly on computer-video links, to his half-brother Brian (Bill Hader), who’s happily married himself. Peter immediately starts hopping into bed with a series of unsatisfactory hookups, finally decides to get away from it all.

He heads for Oahu’s lavish Turtle Bay Resort, on the North Shore. Attractive desk clerk Rachel Jansen (Mila Kunis) is sympathetic to his plight, allowing him to stay free for a few days in a lavish currently-unbooked suite—ordinarily it’s six grand a night. But just then along comes Sarah in a teeny weeny pink bikini, accompanied by affable but self-involved Aldous. Peter moans on the phone to Brian, but decides to stay on anyway. He gets along with a pudgy hotel worker (Jonah Hill, an Apatow regular), who wants to get his demo CD to Snow. And surfing instructor Chuck (Paul Rudd, another familiar Apatow face), who seems like the surf board has hit his head a few too many times, is also friendly enough. Even better, so is Rachel. They go to a locals-type bar (clearly based on Breakers in Hale’iwa) where she induces Peter to sing a number from his long-gestating Dracula operetta/musical. (He seems to be a horror movie fan; his Hollywood home has posters from the original “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Return of Dracula,” Bert I. Gordon’s “Tormented” and Lon Chaney Sr.’s “Unholy 3,” among others.)

She also takes him to nearby spectacular La’ie Point, where she promptly leaps into the surf, then persuades him to take the plunge himself. (The script wants us to believe they had to hike a long way to get to the point; the scene takes place about 30 feet from the parking lot.) Occasionally interrupted by encounters with Sarah and Snow, Peter and Rachel seem to be falling for each other.

There’s not much more to the plot than that. Occasionally there are scenes about newlyweds Darald (Jack McBrayer) and Wyoma (Maria Thayer) and their sexual incompatibility, but these are intrusive, uninteresting and not very funny. McBrayer is essentially playing his “30 Rock” character, who’s best in small, select doses. We do see him and his wife humping away under the sheets, and Sarah and Snow humping away (in many amazing positions) on top of the sheets, but there’s a perfunctory air to these sex scenes. They’re occasionally reasonably funny, but they’re just decoration; they don’t add anything to the stories.

Star Jason Segel also wrote “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” basing it on an epic romantic breakup of his own. It’s well-observed and reasonable, but the characters are, for the most part, not as interesting as they might have been. On the other hand, in most romantic comedies involving couple breakups, the one who broke off the relationship is usually depicted as more or less heartless, the villain (or villainess) of the piece. The one the story focuses on does have some learning to do; the movie us usually about their wising-up process.

So it is here, but in this case, the breaker—Sarah—is not depicted as a bitch. She’s self-centered (but she’s an actress), and clearly drawn to Snow mostly because he’s sexy than because she likes him. And he’s very different from Peter, something of a plus. But we also learn that she worked hard to try to repair her failing relationship with Peter—but the jerk didn’t notice. Furthermore, Snow himself isn’t a preening, self-obsessed jackass; he’s a womanizer, true enough, and an egotist, but he’s basically a decent sort; eventually, even he and Peter get along reasonably well.

Never having watched “How I Met Your Mother,” Jason Segel was basically unknown to me. He’s not a leading man type, nor is he clownish; he’s a regular guy, big, a bit pudgy, but he’s bright and clever, despite his tendency to bawl like a girl. He’s given himself a good but not showy role, but unfortunately hasn’t made Peter all that interesting. Basically realistic, yes, but to hold our attention securely, Peter needed to be a bit more colorful.

This could be said for both of the women as well. We rarely see Sarah Marshall being just a regular person; we usually find her in the midst of a minor (or major) crisis. Generally, she’s reacting to someone else, rarely is what she does the reason for the scene. Kristen Bell has been very busy over the last few years; she was Veronica Mars in the series of that title, the gossip girl in THAT series, and is still a regular on “Heroes.” Here, she seems much younger than in that series, more childlike; her performance in “Forgetting” is clear and precise, but we never really like Sarah Marshall. I guess it’s enough that we don’t dislike her.

Mila Kunis has been a busy voice actor for several years, notably on “Family Guy.” It’s a lot better that we can see her. She’s at least as gorgeous as Bell, with striking eyes and a lively face. Russel Brand, who plays Aldous Snow, is a British stand-up comic (did you know there WERE British stand-up comics?), and is a lot of fun here. Way down deep inside where it counts, Aldous Snow is shallow—and he knows it. Being shallow doesn’t bother him; it enables him to keep moving on.

Nicholas Stoller cowrote the Jim Carrey “Fun with Dick and Jane” with Judd Apatow, and makes his directorial debut here. The movie is mostly relaxed and casual, with nothing very inventive about the direction; it’s competent and professional without being anything like inspired.

O’ahu is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but you don’t see very much of it in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Almost the entire movie takes place on the grounds of the Turtle Bay Resort, which has a prime location at the very tip of the top of the island. Beaches stretch away on both sides, there are lots of coconut palms and well-tended lawns. But there’s a sameness to this location; the movie crew was right there—surely they could have gone to a few more of the beautiful locations available on O’ahu.

[Written by AVRev] [START]
Sadly, the video quality is not even close to making par.  Almost every Blu-ray release utilizes a VC-1 encode.  However, this film uses the AVC MPEG 4, no doubt to fit the enormous amount of bonus features on the disc.  The image lacks cohesiveness.  The fleshtones vary from a push toward green, red, white, and yellow.  The overall image suffers from softness.  The lack of details in the foreground and background make the image appear fuzzy.  Black levels are weak, contributing to a flat image.  In summary, I have seen standard definition DVDs that look better than this transfer.

The audio quality of on this Blu-ray disc is not much better.  While presented in English DTS-HD Master 5.1 Audio, it does not take advantage of the bitstream.  There are virtually no ambiences present in the surround channels, despite the Hawaiian atmosphere.  The LFE channel practically does not exist, which impacts many of the scenes, in particular is makes the overall film sound thin.  The dialogue is audible, but is unbalanced from scene to scene and within scenes.  The music of the film disappears into the background.  The only awesome part to the soundtrack was the crashing wave that wipes out the surfers.  It is a strong sound effect that comes crash form the front and continues into the surround channels, creating a strong illusion for actually being there.  Normally, this would almost go unnoticed, but considering the lack of anything else in the soundtrack, it is very noteworthy.

One thing that this movie does have going for it, are the bonus materials.  There is a boatload of them.  First, the Blu-ray disc contains both the theatrical, Rated-R cut of the film as well as the Extended, Unrated cut.  Each of these is accessed via a separate menu.  Depending on your player, it is quite annoying to have to wait for an entire other menu to load to go between the film versions, especially when the menus are exactly the same, with the exception of where the Play button leads you too.  The unrated cut has about six minutes of additional footage, including an extended Kristen Wiig sequence, which is rather funny.

The U-Control feature gives you Picture-in-Picture footage and a visual commentary.  The commentary has a whole host of people from the cast and crew.  Nick Stoller, Rodney Rothman, Shauna Robertson, Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand and Jack McBrayer as sit in on the commentary.  There is not much information here, but is a funny commentary.

There are eleven deleted/extended scenes.  A couple of them resolve some of the issues of the film, but the others are not of any use.  The "Puppet Break-Up" recreates the break-up of Peter and Sarah using puppets.  "Line-O-Rama" is a battle of funny between Segel and Hill.  "Sex-O-Rama" contains alternate takes of Peter and one of the rebound girls having sex.  "Drunk-O-Rama" follows Peter and his drinking habits.  The Gag Reel is entertaining.  "A Taste For Love" looks at the preparations for Peter's musical.  "Dracula's Lament" is a table reading session.  "Russell Brand: Aldous Show" covers how Brand got the part.  "The Letter 'U'" is a sesame street inspired clip.  "We've Got To Do Something" is the full music video.  "Crime Scene" contains footage of Kristen's fake show.  "Sarah's New Shot – Alts" is more footage of what is seen during the end credits.  "Raw Footage – Video Chat" contains the computer chat between Segel and Hader.  The "Video Diaries" contains more raw footage that didn't make the final version of the film.  Finally, there is a theatrical trailer, Digital Copy and BD-Live content (downloadables, which weren't accessible at the time of this review).

This movie is likely to please audiences in large numbers. The scenery is beautiful (if limited), the cast is beautiful, the situation is one familiar to all too many people, and the characters are likeable, if not strongly drawn. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” itself is likeable—if not particularly distinctive.  [However, the video quality, and to some degree the quality will leave you feeling down.]

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