Forgetting Sarah Marshall Review

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When he’s ditched by his girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Bell), Peter (Segel) feels like his heart’s been ripped out, stabbed and stomped on. He heads to Hawaii to try to get over the hurt, only to find Sarah and her new boyfriend (Brand) staying on the same r


During the 1980s, the early alumni of Saturday Night Live produced an astonishing succession of comedies, including the likes of Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, The Blues Brothers and The Three Amigos (while never in the SNL cast, Steve Martin was an honorary gang member). 20 years later, and there’s another sprawling ensemble of funny guys and gals in town, loosely pinned around writer-producer-director Judd Apatow. And after last year’s double-whammy of Knocked Up and Superbad, it’s starting to look like they may hit the consistent heights of hilarity reached by Murray, Aykroyd et al. So how does their latest effort measure up?

Well, as it turns out, it’s solidly entertaining, if a little scattershot. Like Apatow’s pregnancy-centric Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is an amiable and deeply mellow comedy that takes a situation which really shouldn’t be funny - in this case, a guy dealing with the burn of heartbreak - and squeezes jokes out of it like juice from a plum. The creative force behind the project is for once not Apatow or Seth Rogen, but Jason Segel, who you may recognise as the deliverer of Knocked Up’s “he wants to rear your child” zinger. As well as the movie’s screenwriter, Segel plays Peter Bretter, a thirtysomething musician who makes his living composing gloomy mood-tones for a TV cop show - the biggest laughs early on come from clips of the dire series, which features Billy Baldwin as a detective cornily cracking one-liners like, “Can you say… ‘dicksicle’?”

The plot engine kicks in when Peter is dumped by his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), who is also the star of said cop show, for a new guy - while he’s completely naked. Ouch. After trying to get over the pain through random sex, he heads to a place in Hawaii that Sarah has always described as the best place on Earth - only to find her there with said new guy. Double-ouch. Will he win her back, or will he succumb to the humbler but more exotic charms of island resident Racheal (Mila Kunis)?

This being an Apatow-gang vehicle rather than a Working Title rom-com, the movie’s less concerned with answering that question than in dishing up lots of silly, bawdy dialogue. The supporting cast is too vast to give everyone a name-check, but surprisingly outstanding is Russell Brand, playing to type as the sex-mad Brit rocker who’s Sarah’s new squeeze. The endearingly dim character is one trouser-armadillo short of being a lost member of Spinal Tap, and Brand plays it to the hilt. Also of note: 30 Rock’s toothy Jack McBrayer as a newly-wed who’s petrified of consummating his marriage, an almost unrecognisable Paul Rudd as a doofus surf instructor, and Jonah Hill as a resort worker star-struck by Brand.

Problem is, the hilarious peripheral scenes involving this bunch are more memorable than the ones which form the meat of the cookie-cutter love-triangle story. Bell’s perky charms, familiar to fans of TV’s Veronica Mars, are mostly wasted in a vapid-starlet role that requires her to be superficial and unlikeable. Segel gives it his all, displaying his goods in not one but two scenes of full-frontal nudity, but doesn’t yet have the onscreen everyman charm of, say, Seth Rogen. It has to be said, though, that Kunis (who bizarrely is the voice of Meg Griffin in Family Guy) is an absolutely radiant presence, a good comedy actress and - many will be happy to hear - not resistant to the notion of nakedness herself.

A tropical sex comedy that’s a little unfocused, but Segal and co throw plenty of funniness at the wall - and most of it sticks.