It’s become awfully fashionable to hate on his movies all of a sudden, but personally, I still regard the words “a Judd Apatow production” as a harbinger of moderate-to-gutbusting laughs, not an excuse to lament the rise of schlubby slackers in top-grossing comedies. Given that I have a pair of toddlers in my house, and given that my house is located 20 minutes from the nearest sad strip-mall cineplex, I see relatively few films during their theatrical runs — but I did manage to catch Knocked Up last summer, and I particularly enjoyed Jason Segel’s turn as Seth Rogen’s casually lecherous roommate, so I’ve been looking forward to seeing Forgetting Sarah Marshall for months.
Lo and behold, what should arrive at my house but an advance copy of the three-disc collector’s edition of Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Hooray and hallelujah. I may have spent eight hours last week listening to new albums from Jessica Simpson and the New Kids on the Block, but this job has its perks, too.
But I digress. If you haven’t seen it, you only want to know whether Sarah Marshall sucks; if you have, you’re just waiting to hear whether the bonus materials are worth your $20. I’m here to help.
I suppose it bears mentioning that I haven’t seen all the movies that have fallen under the Apatow umbrella — I purposely missed out on Walk Hard and Drillbit Taylor, and I haven’t seen Pineapple Express yet — so I freely admit I’m probably not as burned out on this brand of comedy as I might otherwise be. Also, as a red-blooded heterosexual male, although I might scoff at the notion that Katherine Heigl, Kristen Bell, and Mila Kunis would ever find themselves tied in emotional knots over guys like Rogen and Segel, I also find it appealing.
Of course, it probably helps that I also generally find these movies very funny, and although Forgetting Sarah Marshall didn’t have me in stitches quite as often as Knocked Up (which, in turn, didn’t reduce me to helpless tears the way The 40-Year-Old Virgin did), it still has a number of things going for it, including a solid script and winning performance from Segel, as well as a terrific (and seemingly mostly improvised) supporting turn from Russell Brand as the sweetly narcissistic rock star Aldous Snow.
That most of the good lines go to the dudes should come as no surprise; although Kristen Bell was clearly up for whatever the script threw at her, her character serves mainly as a thin-lipped, tightly wound foil for Segel and Brand. Mila Kunis — who, I have to say, has never looked foxier — gets off a few good zingers, but her character has even less to do than Bell’s.
If you’re unfamiliar with the storyline, here ’tis: Segel plays a prone-to-loafing composer who loses his TV star girlfriend (Bell) to a preening rock star (Brand), then suffers the additional indignity of bumping into the happy couple during the trip to Hawaii he arranged to try and get on with his life. Kunis is the hotel desk attendant who checks Segel in, and…well, you can probably guess the rest. It’s standard formula, but it’s livened up by some terrific songs from Segel and Peter Salett, as well as a climactic puppet show (don’t ask) courtesy of the Jim Henson crew.
Is it a classic comedy? No, not by a long shot, but it’s still probably one of the funnier movies to see release in ’08, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth checking out on DVD.
Now, if you have seen it, and you’re wondering whether the bonus material is worth $20…well, maybe you should just rent it instead. It’s true that Forgetting Sarah Marshall comes stuffed with a fair bit of extra footage, including an unrated cut (not as funny as the theatrical cut), commentary, a slew of reels expanding on scenes from the movie, and the standard deleted scenes. (One of them, involving Bell trapped on a slow-moving runaway horse, is just as funny as anything in the movie, and might be worth $20 if you’re obscenely wealthy.) It also comes with a third disc that contains a copy of the film suitable for transfer to the digital device of your choice, which seems kind of silly, but still provides some added value.
All in all, it’s probably not something I’ll watch again anytime soon, and the Apatow family tree seems to be nearing the end of this particular crop cycle, but hey, I’m still looking forward to Pineapple Express, and that standup-themed comedy Apatow’s directing Adam Sandler in next. This stuff is good for a laugh. What else do you want?