In recent years, the comedy genre of film has been overtaken by a fresh new face: Judd Apatow. Whether he’s writing and directing Knocked Up or producing Superbad, most of his films have reached great success and are considered some of the best of the decade. The reason for this is a great mixture of raunchy humor intermingled with a heartfelt story and compassionate characters. With Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Apatow and Co. have created another stellar example of this formula.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall was directed by newcomer Nicholas Stoller and written by its star, Jason Segel. The plot centers on a four-way love entanglement. Peter (Segel) is a soundtrack composer for hit shows. He is lazy and lacks ambition. One day his girlfriend, Sarah (Kristen Bell), realizes this and breaks up with him when he is literally the most vulnerable.
To get his mind off of things, he spontaneously goes to Hawaii, and, unsurprisingly, runs into Sarah and her new musician boyfriend (Russell Brand). As he is about to duck and run, the woman at the desk (Mila Kunis) begs him to reconsider, and thus the four principal characters are introduced. Cameos include familiar Apatow actors Jonah Hill, Bill Hader and Paul Rudd. While this sounds like a clichéd sitcom device (it is), several factors make this movie succeed.
First and foremost, Segel is perfect in his own film. His portrayal of Peter is surprisingly deep and caring. He has written a very realistic and honest character, one the audience sympathizes with every step of the way. The other performances are good too, including the guest stars, but Segel steals the show. Also, like all of Apatow’s most popular films, the humor is both adult and immature, but it fits in with the story on a human level. For instance, Peter is naked when Sarah breaks up with him. While this is funny on the surface, it’s symbolic of how sensitive and needy he is. There is a lot of this multilevel humor in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which makes it both hilarious and, at the same time, dramatic.
If there is any downside to this film, it’s that you can predict the ending within the first half hour. It makes sense logically, and as an audience we are happy to see it turn out like this, but some may deem it a cop-out. Even so, a comedy shouldn’t end on a downer, so this was probably for the best.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall should be ranked in the small list of intelligent romantic comedies. It has the typical Apatow blue humor, but underneath it is a genuine, serious story. Segel has proven himself a great screenwriter and leading man for his own material. The story is both ridiculous and universal, as Peter represents the insecurities and sadness of anyone who’s just been dumped. Lastly, it’s really funny, which is the most important factor. Simply put, this is a great movie.