Forgetting Sarah Marshall
2.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
What would you do with a boyfriend whose one desire in life is to stage a musical about Dracula...starring puppets? Yeah, I thought so...
Popular TV actress Sarah Marshall (live wire Kristen Bell) comes to the realization her relationship with her couch potato boyfriend Peter Bretter (Jason Segel, who overdoes the loser act) is draining the life from her, so she dumps him faster than a bouquet of skunk cabbage. Peter, who happens to write the music for Sarah's show, "Crime Scene," is caught off guard and so devastated by the abrupt death of their relationship that he spends days in his apartment wallowing in booze and Fruit Loops. Hoping to bid aloha to heartache, Peter decides to take a vacation in Hawaii, and promptly runs into Sarah and her slinky, sexy, rock star boyfriend Aldous Snow (comedic genius Russell Brand). Seeing Sarah rekindles the hurt, but meeting Rachel Jansen (game, but miscast Mila Kunis), helps Peter regain his sense of self. But will Peter be able to forget Sarah Marshall?
Peter's inability to let go is played for laughs, and thanks to Russell Brand's scene stealing, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is worth devoting a few bowls of poi to get through. You'll cringe in recognition (and smile) at some of the dialogue between Peter and his one night stands, and if you have a sibling, you'll be amused by the cutting communication between Peter and his step-brother, Brian (snide, smirking Bill Hader). It's difficult to get a handle on why Peter falls for Rachel, so you'll have to pick a reason. Is it her bottomless, expressive, mismatched eyes? Her earthy, non-celebrity? Or is he just rebounding from Sarah harder than a Superball shot from a howitzer? Common sense says if you went out on your first date with Rachel, wound up jumping off a shear cliff and nearly drowning, then got beaten up, you'd steer well clear of her. But that's comedy!
The script is partially based in fact. Jason Segel's real life break up with his girlfriend wasn't nearly as traumatic. But he actually thought a musical about Dracula with puppets was something the world needed and craved. "Dracula's Lament," Segel's "Phantom of the Opera" sound alike signature piece built around his bellicose Bela Lugosi vocals, is one of the most wretched wrongdoings I've ever heard. The score for "Dracula's Lament" will suck the life out of you, but thanks to Jim Henson's puppets, at least it's enjoyable to watch - imagine Count Chocula with his own musical! "Dracula's Lament" is the loser musical Max Bialystock should have financed in "The Producers," a guaranteed close-after-one-performance financial flop. You might think it's funny the first time you hear it because Segel only gurgles out a few lines, but by the time you near the end of the movie and hear the whole time-sucking suite you'll be crying out for someone to put a stake through your heart.
Conversely, the double entendre rock video "We Gotta Do Something" featuring Aldous Snow in full-blown rock god/Jesus mode bears a close listen. ("We gotta do somethin', and that somethin' is you, and you, and you!) Brand prances, pouts, preens and postulates like self-proclaimed superstar Liam Gallagher of Oasis. It's all meant to be sexy and serious, but it's as rib-tickling and satiric as "Spinal Tap":
One thing's for certain...If you're a fan of the brain trust that put together "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up," the 3 disc collector's edition of the movie will make sure you never forget Sarah Marshall. You get both the theatrical and unrated versions of the film, plus 90 minutes of extras. There are so many extras you might want to say aloha before you can get through them, but they're worth checking out at least once. Disc 2 is jammed with bloopers, auditions, "Dracula's Lament," deleted scenes, "Drunk-o-rama," Russell Brand's audition for the role of Aldous Snow, Snow's hilarious appearance on a "Sesame Street" styled children's show where he praises the letter "U," Segel's film diary, promos for Sarah Marshall's TV shows, and raw footage of Brand adlibbing a scene with writer/actor Segel, who smartly retracts his fangs and gives Brand the bandwidth to riff.
Segel is a resourceful writer, but a bland actor. Yes, he has to play a schmo who gets dumped, but after an hour of bawling, babbling and begging, you'll say Peter Bretter had better get outta my face. It's not too difficult to understand why Sarah would dump him - he's more self-absorbed than she is! Even when he snaps out of his woe-is-me Marshall funk and grows a spine, Segel's alter ego Peter is about as exciting as watching paint dry on a puppet. What Segel is adept at is setting up the other actor's punch lines at his own expense.
Russell Brand's preening, narcissistic rock god Aldous Snow carries the film with a series of pelvic gyrations, a self-satisfied English accent and an insatiable libido. He's a hedonistic hoaremiester who uses spirituality and getting in touch with one's inner feelings as an excuse to bed whomever he pleases, and is an amalgam of every guy who's skated through life on his good looks and charisma. You want to bash his gourd in, but he's so charming you can't help but like him.
Mila Kunis steps into an adult character role as Rachel, leaving behind her teen roles as Jackie Burkhart on "That 70s Show" and Meg Griffin on "Family Guy." She has a pair of the widest, most entrancing eyes you'll ever see (one's blue, the other's green!), and the voice of a pack a day puffer, but she's betrayed by her nondescript character. Sorry kids, I'm not buying Kunis as a free spirited beach party girl - she looks too much like a twelve year-old. There are times she nails her characters rebellious nature, but when she doesn't, she's obviously forcing herself to act frisky; particularly as her character falls for Peter for no apparent reason other than pity. Kunis can act, but she can't do it consistently and has absolutely no chemistry with Jason Segel. The equally diminutive Kristin Bell is much more at ease with her character's wide variety of moods - let's face it, as the object of almost everyone's affection, she's also given more rangy material to work with. She has a rapport with Segel that Kunis doesn't, making the Peter/Sarah war of words is more enjoyable to watch than the Peter's budding high school romance with Rachel.
Paul Rudd doesn't have much screen time, but his portrayal of Chuck, the perpetually stoned surfer dude is another scene stealer. Rudd resembles a young Timothy Bottoms and is comfortable playing the same type of que sera sera characters Bottoms patented in TV movies:
Chuck: There's only one cure for the pain behind your eyes...Weed. You got any?
Chuck: Well, then. Let's go surfin'!
Watch for Steve Landesburg's cameo as Dr. Rosenbaum at the beginning of the movie. Landesberg played droll Detective Dietrich on "Barney Miller" in the 80s, and then seemed to disappear. The frank advice he gives Peter shows Steve-o hasn't lost his sarcastic wit. "30 Rock" actor Jack McBrayer plays Darald, the uptight half of a pair of Mormon newlyweds. It's a no-win character, with McBrayer desperately mugging for laughs, although the scene where Aldous gives Darald a lesson in Kama Sutra lovin' by humping people-sized chess pieces is beach blanket bingo.
You're probably well aware of this, but it "bares" repeating. Segel plays his getting dumped scene in Full Monty glory, and you do get several glimpses of his junk. Kudos to co-star Kristin Bell for not staring or looking down and laughing. I understand that leaves the score of nude scenes with women at 850 million to 12 for those involving naked men, but as I've said before, unless Segal was chiseled like a young William Smith (the actor who played Falconetti in "Rich Man Poor Man" not the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) there's no reason for him to put his limp biscuit or pimply posterior on screen. My reasoning doesn't have to do with Segel's pasty physique; his nudity simply isn't funny -- just creepy and awkward.
Marshalling the Extras...
The footage with Brand will make you wonder they didn't make him the star of the movie. (As it is, he stole the film from Segel anyway.) The original Aldous Snow character was supposed to be a pompous English writer. That all changed when Brand crash landed on the set. As you'll see in Brand's audition, he had the idea of turning Snow into a wigged-out rocker, and his guffaw-inducing improvising broke up everyone on the set.
The raw footage of Brand riffing in the hotel lobby is equally side-splitting. An off camera director gives Brand scenarios and his talent for improv does the rest. He's thrown so many alternative ideas you'll feel sorry he has to work so hard, but Brand is up for the task.
Other extras worth savoring are "Line-o-rama" and the scenes for Sarah Marshall's TV shows. Line-o-rama is an amusing exercise where an actor delivers a response to a line, followed by an alternative line, than another. Billy Baldwin appears with Kristin Bell in fake promos filmed for "Crime Scene," delivering rapid fire line-o-ramas:
Sarah Marshall: The bullet entered her brain through the frontal cortex. So how did
it exit through the lower right cerebellum?
Baldwin (version 1): Holy Lee Harvey.
Baldwin (version 2): Can you say grassy knoll?
Baldwin (version 3): Can you say Warren Commission?
Baldwin (version 4): Can you say magic bullet theory?
Baldwin (version 5): Can you say David Copperfield?
Promos for Sarah Marshall's new show, co-starring Jason Bateman, keep changing based on the role he's playing. When Bateman appears as a spiritual cop, the title of the show flashed across the screen is "Divine Justice;" when Sarah Marshall speaks to a dog to solve a murder, the show's title changes to "Life's A Bitch," and when Bateman appears as a Christ-like character, the title switches to "Jason H. Cop."
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" isn't "Casablanca" or "The Godfather" and it's not meant to be. This is strictly for the frat boy or sorority girl in you. Forget Segel and Kunis, and don't lament over "Dracula." Watch and enjoy Russell Brand's irresistible improvising.