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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Sarah Marshall is unforgettable

Published: May 2, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

While tabloids usually focus on the celebrity component of a Hollywood love triangle, Forgetting Sarah Marshall follows the underdog, as he attempts to recover from a breakup with up-and-coming It girl Sarah Marshall, played by Kirsten Bell (Veronica Mars).

Produced by Judd Apatow, Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Freaks and Geeks) plays Peter, the unlucky “normal” guy whose pass into the celebrity world is revoked,when his starlet girlfriend dumps him for a more stereotypical beau, a British rocker. After unsuccessfully trying to re-immerse himself in the dating game, Peter resolves to mope around Hawaii rather than Los Angeles.

Despite this being his first lead role in a feature film, Segel seems right at home as the protagonist and center of attention. Segel, who wrote the script, freely sacrifices himself for the sake of comedy, including multiple full frontal nude scenes, including the breakup scene. However, instead of appearing too excessive, these scenes just appear to be a tribute to the slew of man-child comedies that Judd Apatow’s boy’s club has produced ever since Anchorman paved the way.

While the formula of including trampled on “guy’s guy” protagonist and a couple of penis jokes has remained the same, the cast of Forgetting Sarah Marshall is what prevents this film from being marked as tired. It always off-putting when you first see an actor not only make the leap from TV to the big screen, however Kristen Bell manages to hold her own portraying Sarah Marshall as a character the audience wants to love and hate at the same time.

Sarah’s new boyfriend, Aldous Snow is a caricature of the modern rock star that although reformed through rehab and meditation, is nowhere closer to obtaining a self-actualized perspective. British radio and TV personality and comedian Russell Brand, plays Aldous, coming in to add a spurt of humor with his self-absorbed remarks. How much credit Brand deserves for this is debatable though, seeing as it appears that Aldous is simply an pumped-up version of his current public persona.

Peter’s newfound love interest is Rachel, a hotel clerk at the resort he’s staying at and is a testament to the underlying sincerity of the film. Played by Mila Kunis (That 70’s Show), Rachel is the one character in the film that does not serve as a caricature. The only shame in that is that Rachel rarely gets to contribute to the comedic banter of the film. Sure, she has her witty one-liners here and there, but compared to the outrageousness of the rest of the cast, her character comes off as a bit mundane.

Despite the new faces, this is still clearly an Apatow film as evidenced by the bit parts played by his past protégés. Jonah Hill (Superbad) plays an hotel employee whose main purpose is to transform any situation into a awkward one, whether its pestering Aldous to listen to his demo CD or loudly announcing that Peter will be eating alone. However, after the third mention of his demo, you feel that Hill has served his purpose and that the movie might necessarily be worse off without his performance. The cast is filled out by Paul Rudd (Knocked Up) as the burn-out surf instructor, and Bill Hader (Superbad) as Peter’s brother and unwilling wingman back in Los Angeles.

However judging from the film’s modest box office performance opening weekend, the appearance of new stars in this comedy genre was not enough to convince moviegoers that Forgetting Sarah Marshall was anything new. While a promising start to Segel’s career in mainstream films, the movie also suggests that Apatow’s brand of comedy may be in need of some revamping.