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Hey Lucky babies, MG here. I’m thrilled to announce a first on our site. Our Fabulous music commentator, Ms. Jane O’Donnell, has consented to turn her eyes to the silver screen on the Temple’s behalf. Jane blesses us with her charm, wit, and wisdom of her thoughts about Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Kill the people, Jane!



This assignment worried me. Review "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"? But what if I can't be impartial? Even if it's terrible, I might love it. See, I'm a longtime Jason Segel fan, thanks to "Freaks and Geeks." To me, Segel will always be Nick, and he'll always be wonderful. Besides the possibility that my review could be too Segel-friendly, I had another concern. What if "Sarah Marshall" made it tough to continue to love "Nick"? I was pre-warned to expect full-frontal nudity. Did that mean the movie was going to be totally gross? Too mean? Just plain unfunny?

Thankfully, the answer to all was a resounding "Heck no." Within seconds of the opening, my fears were silenced. Within minutes, I was sold. By the time the hour-and-a-half or so expired, I had a movie I couldn't wait to see again. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is funny. Really, truly, excitingly laugh-out-loud funny. And it's warm, sweet and honest about love, sex and relationships. I couldn't wait to tell everyone I know to go see it. I've done that, so now I will tell you.

Jason Segel wrote the movie, so he only has himself to thank/blame for the naked breakup scene (Based on fact, according to Jason. Stranger than fiction, that). But he's laid bare in more ways than the obvious in the movie. Peter isn't a winner. He's devastated by the breakup, sure, but he's clearly a mess before that. Segel doesn't make Peter some dream guy just because he can. And best of all, he doesn't make everyone else a villain to make Peter a hero - or attractive to Mila Kunis' Rachel, a prematurely world-weary hotel employee who goes the extra mile to ensure that Peter has as good a time as possible on his breakup vacation.

The ads will have you believe that there's a bad guy (Well, they will if, like me, you read the poster as "You Do Look Fat in Those Jeans [signed] Sarah Marshall" ... I recently realized that I was making the "signed" part up. The lack of punctuation leaves us wondering what it all means.) But Sarah Marshall probably doesn't think you look fat in those jeans, and even if she did, she wouldn't tell you on a billboard - because who would?

But enough about the ad-campaign Sarah Marshall. What about the REAL (Well, movie-real) Sarah Marshall, the TV actress who just up and dumps Peter for a sleazy rock star? She makes some mistakes, but she's no evil witch. And her new boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Played by Russell Brand, who steals every scene and heart ... but more on that later)? He has some hysterically awful customs (and songs), but he's not a bad guy by any means. He's an absolute delight. I can't imagine leaving the theater without a wish that you could hang out with him, in or out of character.

The laughs are plenty, and totally for grownups - not "This is hilarous to a 15-year-old" R-rated stuff, we're talking actual grownups. This is probably the most sophisticated (and I use that term loosely) of Apatow's productions. The plot is believable - once you get past the "of all the places in the world"/"fancy meeting you here" conceit. TV score musician loses his girl to an actual rock star, takes a big trip in an effort to have fun without her, runs into the new couple at the same hotel ...

Oh no, is this a " 'Meet the Parents'-style humiliation-for-yuks" fest? No. Hold on.

While he's in Hawaii, Peter meets Rachel, a lovely and understanding concierge who tries her hardest to help him have a good time despite the constant presence of Sarah and Aldous. And, well, hilarity ensues. There's crying! There's kissing! There's surfing! There's fighting! There's even more nudity and uncomfortable sexual situations! There's a Dracula musical!

How do we get from surfing the Pacific to a Dracula musical? With a lot of finesse, my friends. This would be a fiasco in the hands of many others, so let's stop for a moment and congratulate first-time director Nicholas Stoller. The tone is perfect throughout, the movie keeps a steady pace, and a couple of opportunities to get off track for an easy laugh (Watch the double-date dinner scene toward the end and see where it doesn't go and you'll know what I mean) are mercifully avoided. Nice one, man!

Plus the acting is great. Segel is perfect in the role, which makes sense since it's apparently some amalgam of all his breakup stories. But instead of hogging all the best material for himself, he gives both Bill Hader (as his advice-offering stepbrother) and Russell Brand (The Other Man) the opportunity to run away with the whole thing. They don't (Brand comes closest. And his Infant Sorrow songs aren't even his best parts!), but they certainly make every moment they are on screen a great one. We already knew that Mila Kunis is beautiful. We didn't know that she had it in her to shine bright as a smart, sensitive and winning lead. Kristen Bell strikes the right notes, and as an actress playing an actress, she sucks up some truly inspired real-life ribbing.

Then there's Peter's trio of vacation confidantes: "30 Rock" star Jack McBrayer as a gun-shy newlywed (imagine Kenneth on his honeymoon), Da'Vone McDonald as the bartending realist Dwayne, and Taylor Wily as towering voice of reason Kemo. Also along for the ride are Apatow favorites Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill, who will remind you who the money man is behind this operation while adding just the right shade of weird with their beyond-bizarre supporting characters.

But make no mistake, this is really Stoller and Segel's baby, and it's one to be very proud of. It's funnier, smarter and more well-adjusted than any of Apatow's other big-screen accomplishments - yeah, we're saying it - even "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

 

~ Jane O’Donnell

April 17th, 2008

 

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(Courtesy of  Universal Pictures)