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Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Lots of Laughs, Not a Lot of Heart

For the first half of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I laughed out loud almost nonstop. Deliciously rife with Apatowian elements — bumbling self-deprecating characters, bawdy jokes, "call-'em-like-I-see-'em" bits of social commentary — it's a satisfying parade of sarcasm and sight gags. It even begins with a shamelessly, utterly nude Jason Segel, a move I fully admire. Yet somewhere along the line everything starts to lose steam, and it's hard to care much about any of the characters — least of all our schlubby protagonist. And sure, it's still funny, but — awesome musical puppet interpretation of Dracula notwithstanding — the heartbeat of the film weakens tremendously.

Of course, for many people this won't matter, and the fact remains that it's still a good comedy in that it makes us laugh. But is it a tight story with great characters? I'm not so sure. In case the extremely pervasive marketing techniques for this movie never permeated your consciousness, here's the story: Pete Bretter's (Segel) TV actress girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) breaks up with him. Grief-stricken, Pete sleeps with as many women as possible before finally deciding a trip to Hawaii will better help him forget Sarah Marshall. But when he reaches the lush, beautiful hotel, there she is — with her new boyfriend, Brit rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Awkwardness ensues as Pete obsesses over Sarah and also tries to avoid her. Enter hot girl hotel employee Rachel (Mila Kunis) who is happy to take Pete's mind off Sarah, which only ignites Sarah's jealousy. Soon, Pete must decide what — and who — he thinks will make him happiest.

For more of my take on it all,


In a largely character-driven comedy, the problem is that we're not entirely sure how to feel about most of the characters, and eventually we give up and feel nothing. This is a directional issue that most afflicts our main twosome, Pete and Sarah. I get the feeling that I'm supposed to hate Sarah, but frankly, I just can't. She shows a vulnerable side, opening up and crying to Pete about what made her break up with him and though her reasoning seems sensible, we're still supposed to hate her. Also, by the time it all comes out, we've been so entertained by all the slapstick and silliness that we end up judging and mocking Sarah's vulnerability, and it feels awkward. So, maybe it's not so much that there is no heart to the story, but that it comes too late to take very seriously.

Same goes for Pete's journey. When Rachel inspires him to jump off a cliff into the ocean (after they've talked about him taking risks with his career, insert heavy-handed life metaphor here), I find it difficult to care about what's going on with him. The following montage of scenes indicating that he's on the up and up (he attends a stranger's wedding! He swims with kids! He refuses alcohol!) rings empty, and again, I can't seem to care about this guy. Thus, whether or not Pete ends up with Rachel, a character I find to be incredibly obnoxious and, well, trashy, isn't something that concerns me in the least, especially since, while he's a relatively nice guy (or, "too sensitive," as Rachel so helpfully puts it), he's sort of a blah person. As the epicenter of an entire narrative, he doesn't quite manage to hold it all together.

There is one character who is both well-defined and endlessly entertaining, and that is Sarah's new man, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). This is the perfect situation: a fantastically gifted comedic actor combined with a solidly formed character. At least with Aldous we know where he stands and what he's about: egotistical fame-hungry rock-n-roll personality by day, tireless lothario by night — all the while maintaining this relaxed comfort with the world, this assumption that pleasure will find him. This movie won't make it to my DVD collection, but I do want a clip montage of Aldous Snow-isms to cheer me up on sick days.

Bottom line: It's not my favorite comedy ever, but the character of Aldous and a bunch of funny jokes make it more or less worth the price of admission.


To see the trailer and more clips from Forgetting Sarah Marshall check out

Join The Conversation
coachluvr33 coachluvr33 9 years
Aldous was hilarious!! So funny! I couldn't hate Kristen Bell's character either. After she was so honest with him about the breakup, I felt sorry for her. I didn't think all the full frontal was necessary. Once, okay, but that was kinda for cheap laughs afterward and I wasn't really laughing. I felt like cringing. Overall, pretty funny, but still not as funny as my fave, The Wedding Crashers.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
I agree with Lizzle, and pretty much disagreed with this review. I saw this this weekend and really liked it and found myself caring about the characters more as the movie went on. And I definitely didn't think that Rachel was trashy. One thing I did agree with was Aldous being the favorite character. His scenes were hysterical, especially the bit with the chess board. Laughed hysterically at that one.
yeokr yeokr 9 years
i LOVELOVELOVEd this movie. my boyfriend said he was almost crying in the scene where rachel made him play dracula in the bar. i love jason segel's perfectly pathetic characters. it was nice not to totally hate sarah marshall, also. after the ending with the puppets i am very excited to see what jason segel and nicholas stoller do with the muppets movie!
yaliyah yaliyah 9 years
just saw it. thought it was funny and endearing. i also loved that the ex-GF wasn't completely evil and they showed both sides of the break up. i would def recommend it for laughs!
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
I just got back from seeing this. I haven't laughed that much in a movie in a long time. Everyone in the theater was laughing. I thought this was awesome and I plan on seeing it again!! I'm laughing just thinking about some of the scenes!
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
I saw this film! It was crude, vulgar, and totally HILARIOUS! Finally lots of male front nudity!!! I agree the characters were pretty "real". I like that no one was dumbed down too much which tends to make a movie annoying. Good laughs in this one!
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
Great review, Buzz! Most reviews that I've read/heard today are consistent with your honest assessment of the film. I'll still probably take a chance on this one since I really do like Jason Segal a lot. (and, The Pickle: your comments are spot on; thanks for making them!)
The-Pickle The-Pickle 9 years
Torgelson, I'm confused, you're concerned about pay for play with a very mediocre review -- why would an advertiser pay Sugar for an "I just can't care about any of the characters" review? Ads show up next to print reviews all the time -- that's why there are seperate editorial and business departments...
palesugar palesugar 9 years
I agree with Lizzie and sarae. I saw an advanced screening, and I thought the movie had MORE heart because all of the characters were real. They were all flawed, and the breakup was real. For anyone that's been through one like that, it rings so true. Add Apatow and crew jokes (Paul Rudd as a surfing instructor KILLED me) to that great realism, and you've got a great movie! GO SEE IT!
sarae sarae 9 years
I saw this movie last night at a sneak preview, and I loved it! I agree with Lizzle, it was great to see a movie where the ex (or current) girlfriend wasn't portrayed as being completely soulless and evil. I thought it was hilarious and that it did have a lot of heart.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
Hard to know what to make of this review since the movie has been heavily promoted on this site. Who knows how much the Sugar Network is making off the ads.
kbrooks7 kbrooks7 9 years
I may want to see this one.. who am I kidding I will prob. see it.. I've loved most of their the chicago trib today it god 3 and a half stars..not bad
Lizzle Lizzle 9 years
I found it really refreshing that it was hard to hate Sarah Marshall. I think a lot of romantic comedies make the main character Good and the ex Bad. But in real life nobody's like that, and I really liked the fact that she wasn't totally awful because it made me understand more of what Jason Segel's character was going through. I don't think we're supposed to hate her, which I liked.
mmmmmm mmmmmm 9 years
I feel like I was really lucky because I was able to see this about 4 weeks ago, before any of the ads started running and I really enjoyed it. Laughed my ass off and I think it had enough heart that I was finally able to get my friends to understand my undying love for Jason Segel
calliope calliope 9 years
I'm still going to see this because the other options out right now are not appealing.
Phasekitty Phasekitty 9 years
:rotfl: linb! I'm excited to see this- it looks pretty funny and I LOVE Jason Segel. I'm sure I'll feel the same way about this one as I did about Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin- hysterical, but not favorite comedy material. Usually they get better upon repeated viewings, though, so it's worth catching it on HBO once or twice.
linb linb 9 years
He's not suppose to be with either girl - he will always be Marshall, and he will always be with Lily.
karisaamy karisaamy 9 years
I kinda figured it was a rental
RosaDilia RosaDilia 9 years
I'm leaving work early to go see this. Hope it's worth the 11 bucks!!
shernic82 shernic82 9 years
I have seen so many ads for this movie on tv that I have absolutely NO desire to see it good job for them, I was interested the first 5-10 times, but after 30+ times of seeing the preview, I could care less and will not be seeing it.
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 9 years
maybe I'll wait to rent this one
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