Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal Pictures, R)

sarahmarshall75.jpgSegel is as great as he always is, but the real find here is what a great writer of music he is. Segel wrote a few songs for the movie (that are actually performed by characters in the movie; we’re not just talking about score here), and they are really, really great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Superbad came out last year, co-written by Judd Apatow protégé Seth Rogen, I had high hopes, as Rogen, although young, had written for Undeclared and Da Ali G Show to great success already, so I knew that he had it in him. As far as Apatow peons go, I actually prefer Jason Segel (who played my favorite character on Freaks & Geeks, the passionately stoned drummer, Nick, and can currently be seen on How I Met Your Mother), but his lack of writing experience (especially compared to Rogen) had me a little worried about the Segel-scripted Forgetting Sarah Marshall—I know I like Segel the actor, but just because Rogen can write a successful script doesn’t mean that every kid that Apatow knows can.

But maybe I’m wrong; Forgetting Sarah Marshall is every bit as good as Superbad. Sarah Marshall plays more or less like how an Apatow-directed cross between High Fidelity and Swingers would play. (Not to be misleading, Apatow only produced here—newcomer Nicholas Stoller, best known for also writing scripts for the previously mentioned Undeclared, is at the helm.)  Segel plays Peter Bretter, a television composer who is not particularly attractive but has somehow snagged the very attractive TV star Sarah Marshall (Veronica Mars’ Kristen Bell), and has dated her for years. As you can guess by the title, Marshall breaks up with Peter within the first reel, and the rest of the film is spent with Peter trying to get over her. One of his first orders of business is to take a vacation in Hawaii, but he unwittingly winds up at the same resort hotel where Marshall is staying with her new tantric love god/rock star boyfriend Aldous Snow (the very funny Russell Brand). Luckily for Peter, the girl who works the counter at the hotel, Rachel (That 70s Show’s Mila Kunis), is prettier than Sarah and seems to be on his side, too. You know where all of this is going, but there’s a lot of fun to be had along the way.

Despite being so TV-centric, the cast (minus Bell, who marginally blows what could have been a really great role) is largely wonderful. Kunis is quite likeable as Rachel, except that the role would have benefited from an unknown, as you know as soon as Peter checks in and it is Kunis at the counter that she’s going to be in the movie a whole lot more. Segel is as great as he always is, but the real find here is what a great writer of music he is. Segel wrote a few songs for the movie (that are actually performed by characters in the movie; we’re not just talking about score here), and they are really, really great. Granted, anyone who saw him sing the (also Segel-written) “Lady L” on F&G knows that he can write a great, funny song, but wait until you hear his song from the rock opera about Dracula that Peter is working on—it’ll surely be one of the best scenes in a film this year, especially from a mainstream comedy.

As much as I like almost everything that Apatow has ever done, his constant success almost makes me resent him. Really, how many great comedy writers has that guy pulled out of nowhere and cultivated to viable Hollywood hyphenates now? | Pete Timmermann

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