April 24, 2008

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall (R)
A kind doofus is dumped by his famous girlfriend and goes to Hawaii to forget her, only to see her and her new boyfriend, in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a slacker-guy comedy with some sweetness at its heart and some Judd Apatow in its producer credits.

Peter (Jason Segel) is a slacker but with a moderately successful career scoring a police procedural TV show and what he thinks is a much more successful love life dating the show’s lead, Sarah Marshall (Kristin Bell). But when Sarah comes back from a shoot, she informs a naked Peter that it’s all over between them. Peter (and his, uhm, little buddy) are unclothed and despondent. Even when he eventually finds some sweatpants or boxers or some other piece of the standard Wardrobe of Sadness to cover himself, Peter can’t help but look devastated. He attempts to get back “out there,” talking to girls and whatnot, but the results are only sadder still. His stepbrother Brian (Bill Hader) suggests that he take a vacation. Peter, vaguely remembering some nice things that Sarah once said about Hawaii, decides to head there.

And, hey, guess who he sees there! With her new boyfriend, a rock star named Aldous Snow (Russell Brand)! Peter is horrified at finding Sarah in the location where he went to forget Sarah but he decides to stick it out, unwilling to appear to be running from her. His stay at the lavish hotel is thanks in part to Rachel (Mila Kunis), a sweet hotel employee who tries to help ease Peter out of his misery.

Penis humor, cool girl, geeky moment in the sun (Peter is writing a Dracula musical and sings one of the songs for Rachel), not-so-bad ex-girlfriend, dream to pursue, pot humor, wacky friends, funny sex scenes — yes, Forgetting Sarah Marshall has all of the Apatowian comedy parts. (These movies where man-boys becoming better, more grown up people need their own genre name — guy lit? Dude romance?) It even assembles them in a relatively competent way. Every time I suspected the movie was starting to go south, it pulled itself up and let its characters act more like people than like comedy movie types. Even the requisite horrible-new-boyfriend character gets to have bits of decency in him.

The movie was even funnier than I suspected. I thought I would see a further reduction of the comedy content — a copy of a copy of Drillbit Taylor. But this movie was marginally better than that. It had more brains and probably more heart.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a perfectly OK movie, a feature-length version of a sitcom that would sit on the shelf near How I Married Your Mother and Samantha Who? What keeps it from being a wow film, from being something worth more than just a space on your Netflix list four to six months from now, is that it doesn’t really bring any laughs. I thought “oh, that’s funny” a couple of times, I might have even smiled. But I remember no full-on, out-loud laughs. Should you get at least one of those in a comedy? C+

Rated R for sexual content, language and some graphic nudity. Directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is an hour and 52 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Universal Pictures.