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There’s one thing you won’t forget about the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall and it arrives within the first 10 minutes: The sight of star Jason Segel naked. The full-frontal moment prompted groans of disgust from many of the guys in the audience, who acted as though they’d never seen a penis before, as though the sausage hanging between Segel’s leg were a gross deformity.
Mind you, speaking as a gay man, even I must admit, the sight of Segel’s dick ain’t pretty.
It’s not as though Segel, who plays a composer named Peter, is an eyesore. He’s your basic, average, everyday guy: not in the best of shape, not in the worst, a little lumpy. But the scene is designed for maximum startle effect, and Segel’s pubic region is not filmed especially attractively. So the moment, which has been included to incite chatter about the film, carries a certain blecch-ness, not to mention absurdity, since it’s at this very naked instant that Peter’s girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), breaks up with him.
This sets Peter into a despondent period that includes a bevy of one-night-stands and endless, pathetic crying jags. No matter what he does, he can’t get the comely Sarah off his mind. So he takes a trip to Hawaii to forget her once and for all. Guess what? She’s at the very same resort! Well, ain’t that a kick in the Peterschmidt? And she’s with a new guy — an insufferable rock star named Aldus Snow (Russell Brand), a man-child with the mental capacity of a peanut shell.
In confronting his sorrow, Peter discovers a new love interest: the lovely, lively desk clerk, Rachel (Mila Kunis). Meanwhile, Sarah does a flip-flop and realizes that she might have given up the best thing she ever had. Ain’t love predictable?
The utter obviousness of what transpires over the next two hours is matched only by the utter vacancy of the script, which was — surprise! — written by Segel. Some might be tempted to call Forgetting Sarah Marshall a romantic comedy. I’m tempted to call it a complete and utter mess. It’s jammed together out of bits and pieces, directed with a hatchet-job finesse by first-timer Nicholas Stoller. There’s little that interests us about the characters or their situation, and everything that passes before us is accompanied by thundering dullness. Perhaps the entire film should have been set at a nudist colony — that might have perked things up. If nothing else, we’d have had something on which to focus our interest.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall comes from the Judd Apatow factory, which has had a pretty good track record up to this point, what with Superbad, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Well, here’s Apatow’s first absolute dud. Just because you spice things up with a little raunch doesn’t automatically ensure success. Even a running gag featuring Jack McBrayer (so wonderful as Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock and so terribly, terribly misused here) as a newlywed befuddled by the mysteries of sex, runs out of steam within seconds.
Segel could have a leading-man career ahead of him — as long as he lets someone else do the writing. The only castmember of value proves to be the exotic, beautiful Kunis. Her Rachel is the only character with depth — and Kunis actually invests some genuine acting into the role. Apatow mainstays Paul Rudd, Bill Hader and Jonah Hill pop in for a visit, and you almost wish they’d stayed away. They’re additional annoyances in an already annoying annoyance-fest.
Good romantic comedies need characters you can latch onto and care about. The only thing good about the characters in Forgetting Sarah Marshall is that after the movie’s over, you never have to hear from them again.