Laughs are hard to come by in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall," a comedy about a forlorn Hollywood composer dumped by a starlet named S
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“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is churned out of the same creative factory that pumped “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” into our culture. It’s the play school presided over by Judd Apatow, also responsible for the excellent 2006 comedy, “40-Year-Old Virgin.”

Rank them by quality, and “Superbad” is up there first as a minor classic. Taking last place in the Apatow collection is “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” starring “Freaks and Geeks” alumnus Jason Segel, who also penned the screenplay. This is not to say that this comedy about a forlorn Hollywood composer dumped by a starlet named Sarah is a total dud. It just comes off as flat and limp in comparison with the other creations under the Apatow umbrella.

Bursts of humor

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” has spurts of errant humor, little moments of hope where you believe the comedy will take off and soar. But each time you sense that a line or antic will kick the movie into high gear, it retreats from drive down to second. “Halt! Wait until we find something really funny, or maybe funnier,” Segel’s venture directed by Nicholas Stoller seems to be telling us. But “funnier” never really arrives in a fractured comedy that chugs and stalls, chugs and stalls. No gliding motion; just catch a laugh here and there.

Segel is Peter Bretter, who writes background music for a TV show. He’s a geek, a messy bachelor who is dating and playing second fiddle to a top TV starlet named Sarah Marshall. Played by Kristin Bell, Sarah really does not register with us as any more than a nice girl with a pretty face. Moreover, you have to wonder what Sarah sees in this kewpie doll of a boyfriend reduced to holding her accessories during photo shoots.

’Forgetting Sarah Marshall’

DIRECTED BY Nicholas Stoller

SCREENPLAY BY Jason Segel

STARRING Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Kristin Bell, Paul Rudd, Russell Brand and Jonah Hill

RATED R

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes

In what seems to be an Apatow fixture and calling card, we see Segel more than once in full frontal nudity. It is, I believe, Apatow’s way of demanding equal time for males — a way of breaking down the puritanical barriers declaring that men’s pubic areas in movies are more off limits than women’s.

Whatever, when our jilted composer takes off to Hawaii to recover from heartbreak, he runs into Sarah, who is staying at the same resort. She has a new lover, a wacky rock musician played by Russell Brand. When he is not taking surfing therapy with an instructor portrayed by Paul Rudd or sipping drinks served by “Superbad’s” Jonah Hill, Peter begins to hang with Rachael, an attractive resort receptionist, played by Mila Kunis. She, not Bell, is the freshest and most lively presence in the film, which gets jolts of life every time she is on screen.

Meanwhile, Sarah may be having second thoughts about her new choice in men, and as it turns out, the feeling appears to be mutual.

Multiple detours

Beneath all the clutter, there’s a chance for a terrific comedy here about a guy who realizes that he’s got more to him than he might think. But in the process, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” takes too many detours. What we get is a shell of a narrative buried in awkward stabs at farce. It’s all nice, friendly, and despite the bursts of humor, perfectly bland.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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