Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Director    Nicholas Stoller
Starring    Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Russell Brand, Mila Kunis, Bill Hader
Release    18 APR (US) 25 APR (UK)    Certificate 15
3 stars


27th April 2008

For all the fuss surrounding producer Judd Apatow's comedies, there are some people involved in his movies that have been seriously neglected for their contributions. The 40 Year-Old Virgin wouldn't have worked half as well without co-writer and wax-resistant star Steve Carell in the title role; Knocked Up birthed not one but two major stars in Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl; director Greg Mottola and Rogen's co-writer Evan Goldberg were the guys who really gave Superbad its strut. Forgetting Sarah Marshall does fall under the Apatow umbrella, but writer and star Jason Segel is the real creative force here, creating a fresh, funny script and a sympathetic lead character that'll surely see him travel the same career paths that both Rogen and Carell have.

Segel plays composer Peter Bretter, your typical Apatow leading man: mildly slovenly, not averse to nudity but still unbearably lovable. His likeability factor sky-rockets when he's dumped by TV star girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Heroes' Kristen Bell) while completely bollock naked. Broken and dejected, Peter packs up and heads off to Hawaii for a much-needed holiday, but on arrival, spies the ex at the same resort, shacked up with British pop star/lothario Aldous Snow (Brand) for good measure. Peter's only comfort comes in the shapely form of hotel receptionist Rachel (Mila Kunis), who's also recovering from a nasty break-up.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall contains little in the way of surprises: you can pretty much tick off most of your trademark Apatow plot points. Slightly overweight lead scores with chesty beauty? Count on it. Cameos from the likes of Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd and Bill Hader? All present and correct. It doesn't make the slightest effort to push the comedic envelope, but Segel's savvy screenplay contains more than enough memorable set-ups to distinguish itself from Knocked Up et al (three words: Dracula puppet musical). It also helps that Segel is clearly a huge star in the making, displaying the inherent cuddle-a-bility that Steve Carell and Seth Rogen both had in spades - you can't get more vulnerable than a naked break-up after all.

When Katherine Heigl called Knocked Up "a little sexist," she wasn't too far from the truth. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is also guilty of similar sins towards the fairer sex, featuring two weak lead female characters. Bitchy ex Sarah is too broadly drawn to warrant any sympathy (a third reel change of heart is depressingly predictable) and although Bell does her best to flesh out her role - and indeed her many bikinis - she's fighting a losing battle. Kunis has an equally vacant role as Segel's new object of affection: feisty, foxy and far too willing to jump into bed with her new man. Sadly, it's another one of those trademark Apatow touches: strong roles for the guys, but the girls merely function as plot points and poster pin-ups.

Even Russell Brand, as Sarah's highly-sexed new boyfriend Aldous, is a likeable character, despite the fact he loudly defiles our hero's ex-girlfriend nightly. Brand is essentially playing himself here, so depending on your tolerance for his 'land-locked Jack Sparrow' routine, you'll either love him or loathe him. He certainly keeps the energy high throughout, essential for a comedy that tips that scales at almost two hours. In the interest of fairness, director Nicholas Stoller deserves praise also: with it's hula-Hawaii setting, Sarah Marshall never looks less than lush.

Despite a predictable set-up and some questionable female roles, Forgetting Sarah Marshall still deserves to be seen, if only for the contribution of Jason Segel. He writes, he acts, he plays the piano, he loves the Muppets... hell, he's even willing to unleash his junk in the name of entertainment. Segel's first feature isn't quite ready to break out of the Apatow stable by itself - why mess with a winning formula anyway? - but there are touches of greatness to be enjoyed here, perfectly observed moments of comedy that hint at a stellar career in waiting. Sarah Marshall will be long forgotten in time, but here's hoping Segel won't be. Ali

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