A few days ago I enjoyed a very conventional comedy called Run Fatboy Run. The film succeeds (to a B-minus degree, anyway) thanks almost exclusively to the contributions of actors like Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran, and Hank Azaria. When you have talented people lugging familiar material around, the result can sometimes be unexpectedly amusing. Such is most definitely the case with Nick Stoller's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a semi-romantic comedy that covers some of the same ground as The Break-Up and The Heartbreak Kid but does one thing differently: It delivers a lot of laughs.
Produced by the recently very prolific Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad), Forgetting Sarah Marshall stars one of the producer's regulars (Jason Segel, who also penned the screenplay) as a TV music composer who is madly in love with his "hot actress" girlfriend. (Her name is Sarah Marshall, obviously.) But when Sarah dumps Peter for a preening British rock star, the sensitive slob of a guy goes into an emotional tailspin. At the advice of his well-meaning stepbrother, Peter decides to take a solo trip down to Hawaii. And ... you guessed it: Sarah and new posh new boyfriend Aldous are already vacationing there! Ack, how comically uncomfortable! So you pretty much know where the flick is headed: Peter bounces around a lovely Hawaiian resort, bumping into several colorful characters and (yes) his ex-girlfriend AND her mega-famous new beau -- all while trying to heal a crushed heart and (maybe) spark up a new romance with some lucky lady. Basically, where Forgetting Sarah Marshall is concerned, It's not necessarily the destination that's unique; it's the time we spend getting there.
In the hands of sloppier filmmakers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall would sink as quickly as its sitcom-esque premise would allow (which is pretty quick), but Segel's screenplay strikes an excellent balance between farcical silliness and weirdly sweet romance. In his first leading role, Segel (memorable from work in Freaks & Geeks and Knocked Up) does a fine job of playing a likable everyman, and of course the screenwriter gave himself a few really hilarious moments of overwrought heartache. (And even -- yikes -- a few silly nude scenes!)
Leading ladies Kristen Bell (as Sarah) and Mila Kunis (as a sexy, sympathetic hotel clerk) deliver some of their best work to date, and (this being a Judd Apatow production) the background is capably populated by funny folks like Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Jack McBrayer and Maria Thayer. Icing on the cake: UK comedian Russell Brand steals scene after scene as an egotistical rock star who steals people's girlfriends.
It's one of those can't-miss romantic comedies in that there's some sweet, sensitive, and insightful stuff for the ladies -- but there's also plenty of sexy, raunchy comedy for the boys. Plus, c'mon, we all know guys like a little emotion and that ladies love the vulgar stuff, too -- which makes Forgetting Sarah Marshall a quick-witted date movie that will please both genders for a variety of solid reasons. Well done, Segel!