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Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I’m getting tired of writing that Team Apatow movies have heart. Knocked Up, Super Bad and The 40 Year Old Virgin were all pretty sleazy comedies hiding greatly told, heartfelt movies. Could it be that patriarchal producer Judd Apatow knows the recipe for the feel good movie? It would seem to be the case for the next Apatow produced movie coming out the gate.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall not only has a heaping helping of heart, but it’s also got enough crass humor and full frontal nudity to help us remember that we’re still watching a dirty comedy.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is written by and stars, Jason Segel (Knocked Up, How I Met Your Mother) as television composer Peter Bretter. Peter is devastated to find out that his hot television star girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell) is breaking up with him and he finds himself going through the painful trials of being a disposed beau. To expedite the healing process, Peter decides to take a Hawaiian vacation. Unfortunately, Peter just happens to pick the same resort that his ex and her new boyfriend are staying at and the awkwardness begins. It doesn’t help that Sarah’s new boyfriend, Aldous Snow, is the hottest thing in pop music today and a sexual miscreant as well.

Wallowing in his own self pathetic-ness, Peter meets Rachel (Mila Kunis from That '70s Show), a cute and perky hotel front desk clerk who shows him a little kindness and sympathizes with his plight. Rachel has a positive energy and motivates Peter to enjoy his vacation and take advantage of what the resort has to offer, and slowly but surely, Peter starts to deal with the pitfalls of an ending relationship.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is an interesting kind of movie. It definitely has the feel of an Apatow style film - The casual slacker with no direction finds motivation and ultimately finds personal growth. However, instead of this being a straight up raunchy comedy, FSM is also an honest film about breaking up and what a person can go through during that time. Segel writes an endearing piece here about all the different phases of letting go.

Even the little things that one notices during a break up that have the potential to remind us of greater pain, like cereal containers and bad gifts. Not only does FSM work as a comedy but also it’s a great romantic comedy that will resonate with anyone who’s ever been through a serious dumping.

Segel is a believable slouch and great as the lead. As an actor, he has always had a genial yet creepy aura about him (see Freaks and Geeks and Knocked Up) and it’s prevalent here in this movie. If he were any more charismatic he wouldn’t work as the pathetic lead. When Peter cries, we believe it, because Segel pulls off the sad wuss characteristic very well. We can feel his frustration and his reluctance because Segel makes Peter so very vulnerable and sweet.

And when Peter is pathetic we can’t possibly see what the hot and sexy Sarah would want with a loser like that. Bell makes a convincing turn here as the shallow Hollywood tart and actually comes off as unlikable in a likable way. She’s the villain we love to hate, and she pulls it off well. The role is also very mature for Bell and she does great with it.

Speaking of mature, former teen queen Kunis shows a great maturity in this role and shines as a calm, gentle and caring love interest for our beleaguered Peter. She’s not only sexy and sweet, but Kunis is believable as the un-ambitious front desk clerk. She also plays Rachel with a worldliness that betrays her young years. Rachel is an old soul and possibly the best thing our wounded Peter needs.

What Peter didn’t need was to acquaint himself with Sarah’s new man, Aldous. Aldous (the hilarious and possible breakout star, Russell Brand) is the stereotypical British frontman, channeling Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler and Prince all at the same time. He’s sex personified, and confident to the max. Yet all the while being a caricature, Brand makes him human and grounded in our reality. He’s supposed to be the guy to hate, but it’s hard to hate Aldous Snow.

The rest of the supplementary comedy comes from the supporting cast, in the form of the dippy surfer character Chuck (the always on Paul Rudd), Newlywed Darald (30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer) and Matthew the Waiter (Apatow staple Jonah Hill).

And let's not forget personal fav and my prediction for the next Dan Akroyd, SNL’s Bill Hader as Peter’s stepbrother Brian and Peter’s main confidante and supporter. FSM is more about Peter’s journey and interaction with all these supporting characters that enlighten him to realize that he’s not the only one with problems.

One of the things FSM does best is its use of quick flashbacks to illustrate realization and regret. Its situations are comical and funny, yet real, and these flashbacks paint a quick picture that help put us in the characters shoes. Anyone who’s ever suffered a painful breakup will feel these moments awkwardly and honestly because as funny as they are, they actually happen.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. I found it funny and brutally honest, yet mature and grounded. It never went to, say, Will Ferrell farce status, and yet it stayed funny and brilliant at times. Not sure how it was going to play out, FSM is entertaining and sweet and just a pleasure to watch.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a funny movie that makes you believe. You can believe a schmoe like Peter could get a hotty like Sarah. You can believe that self centered rock star might be a likable guy. You can believe that Mila Kunis is not only hot, but you might wanna hang out with her afterwards and you might even believe that once again, whether willing or not, that Team Apatow has done it again, and made a romantic comedy with a lot of heart.

Lon Lopez

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