Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Dumped by his girlfriend, Peter (Jason Segal ) takes a vaction in Hawaii, only to find his ex staying at the same hotel, in the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Copyright 2007 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

It was just a few years ago that Judd Apatow was the perpetual mastermind of the brainy and innovative TV flops Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. Then came the unexpected hit The 40-Year Old Virgin, and now studio heads are now known to use the phrase “Judd it up” when a middling comedy needs an upgrade. The latest, Forgetting Sarah Marshall,  is perhaps my favorite of all, a brisk and sprightly romantic comedy unburdened by the family values “message” of Knocked Up and Superbad.

Peter (Jason Segal) is a contented and likeable TV show composer who, for the last five and a half years, has dated TV superstar Sarah Marshall (lead in the police drama Crime Scene: Scene Of The Crime). One day, while Peter is completely nude, he is dumped by Sarah, sending him into a talespin. Finally, at the urging of his sensible brother-in-law (Bill Hader), Peter takes a vacation to Hawaii only to find Sarah staying at the same hotel with her new lothario, political rocker boyfriend Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). This groaning coincidence is wisely not dwelt upon as the film lightly moves forward with Peter’s agony. He drinks, he cries, he wallows, until a pretty, relaxed hotel receptionist (Mila Kunis) befriends him and helps him loosen up and follow the adage of the title.

The simple plot line of the film works in its favor. Jason Segal has easy, low-key charm both as a screenwriter and an actor. When he delivers this line to a waiter, “No, I don’t think I will be having an alcoholic beverage this morning,” it’s a perfect combination of a zinger and a turning point. Segal and Kunis have a believable and likeable chemistry that buoys the film with an effortless and not overly saccharine sweetness.

Laughs wise, Forgetting Sarah Marshall stands tall next to any of Apatow’s other big hits. If anything, it’s more nuanced, employing clever punch lines, dialogue, and flashbacks to go along with the usual sight gags and slapstick.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall enters the rather inglorious pantheon of island comedies as perhaps the best ever. It’s been a while since I enjoyed myself so much at a film. A

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