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April 23, 2008

FILM REVIEW: The Eminently Forgettable Forgetting Sarah Marshall


By D.F. Krause

All you need to know about Forgetting Sarah Marshall is that the closing scene features a puppet musical about Dracula’s feelings – a presentation that is horrible in almost every way, but better than the movie.


That’s all you need to know. I’ll tell you more, though. If you like to see penises and hear them discussed ad nauseum, writer and star Jason Segel’s got you covered, because he doesn’t have himself covered. Segel decided to write a plethora of completely gratuitous frontal nude scenes into the film – but he is the only one strutting his stuff.


Insert your own pop Freud analysis here.


The constant sexual innuendoes – culminating in what I guess was designed to be the “classic scene” where two couples try to out-fake-orgasm each other from across a hotel wall – are not the ruination of the film all alone. We all know completely crude people. I suppose it’s possible that a lot of them would gather somewhere for a weekend.


The problem with Forgetting Sarah Marshall is its complete implausibility, its predictability, the dearth of practically any redeeming qualities at all for the main characters – and its reliance on the toilet humor to make up for these three little problems.


Television music composer Peter Bretter (Segel) is dating Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), who also happens to be the star of the same show for which he composes. Bretter is about as pathetic as a person can be – mostly sitting around on the couch in sweat pants eating massive bowls of Fruit Loops, and occasionally getting out to hold his famous girlfriend’s purse at celebrity hob-nob events.


So when she dumps him in the very first scene of the movie (which is also Segel’s first let-me-show-you-my-penis scene), who isn’t shocked? Oh, that’s right, everyone.


Spurred on by his loyal if nerdy stepbrother Brian (Bill Hader), Peter heads off to Hawaii to pull himself together – only to find Sarah there with her new boyfriend, rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), staying at the same resort!


What were the chances of that? Why, 100 percent of course, because when screenwriters care nothing for plausibility, anything can happen, and it sure does here.


The only main character who is moderately likeable is hotel desk clerk Rachel Jansen (Mila Kunis), who feels pity for Peter and of course ends up sleeping with him.


During their stay at the resort, the characters treat us to a parade of disgusting qualities. Aldous is the world’s biggest self-absorbed narcissist, although he is somewhat refreshingly honest about it. Sarah is as plastic as the breast implants she vows never to get, even to save her suddenly sagging career. (The gratuitous wisecrack is intentional. I just saved you the trouble of seeing the movie and listening to two hours’ worth of them.)


As for Peter, well, with some guidance from Rachel, he starts to catch on to good advice like “If you hate something, change it.” But he finds it hard to put this into practice consistently until he finally finishes his long-awaited vampire opus.


You want to know what that’s like? Try to envision Count Chocula on The View. You’ve pretty much got it.


Some of the secondary characters did have funny lines, particularly Brian, and it was good to see Steve Landesberg from Barney Miller make a cameo as Peter’s doctor. If anyone knows how his appearance has managed not to change in 30 years, I’d love to know.


In fairness to our hero Peter, he does at least momentarily conquer some of his issues toward the end, but by that time you’ve spent so long hating him, you’re long past any motivation to root for him.


During one of his woe-is-me moments in Hawaii, Peter attends a wedding in which the singer belts out the following lyrics: “Oh, get me out of here, I want to die.”


Audience empathy was never higher.


No Stars.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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