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"Forgetting Sarah Marshall"

Directed by Nicholas Stoller.
Written by Jason Segel.
Starring Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Russell Brand.

Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  4/26/08


"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is probably the first time I openly sighed when I saw yet another trailer open with

"From the guys who brought you 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' and 'Knocked Up'..."

I think that you want to live off of your previous laurels for only so long...that, or you should only drop that when the film is actually directed by the guy that directed those other films, Judd Apatow.  The idea that every sloppy seconds thing that he produces will also be that funny is a little ridiculous, and with "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", I thought that this was the first fairly unfunny thing the Apatow machine has put out recently.

That's because "FSM" is a tricky proposition--a TV score composer named Peter (Jason Segel) is dating a woman on the show that he scores, a woman named Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell).  Well, after about five years of dating, Sarah is moving on, since, you know, Peter is a slob who mills about on his couch for most of the many other Apatow "heroes", Peter is a nice guy but essentially useless when we meet him.  After moping around for a couple of weeks, Peter decides to go to Hawaii to forget about his lost love and clear his head a bit...of course, he happens to end up at the EXACT SAME RESORT as Sarah and her new boyfriend, a British pop star named Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).  While trying to avoid seeing Sarah around the resort, Peter makes friends with the particularly-attractive hotel concierge, Rachel (Mila Kunis, from "That 70s Show").

Generally, having your writer also be your star works if the writer is a good actor...Segel is not.  Neither is Bell, so your best performances in "FSM" come from Brand, hilarious as the oversexed new boyfriend who lays the smackdown on a lot of the other characters.  The Apatow Players, who are quickly becoming the next Rat Pack, or at least the next Owen-and-Stiller Posse, are "FSM" we get Apatow regulars Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, and Bill Hader, and strangely, none of the three are any good in this film.  There are good laughs from the bit players, like a big Hawaiian guy who befriends Peter, and William Baldwin, who plays the partner of the character opposite Marshall in the movie's in-film TV show.  So, the chemistry amongst the comedic players is weak, but some of the sight gags and the lines still work.

Also, the film is just really long, and I'm finding that to be a problem in all of the Apatow was the one hangup I had with both "Superbad" and "Knocked Up", and most people I have talked to think that "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" is a bit of a run-on.  (I haven't seen "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" yet, but if I had to guess, it's too long also.)  As such, there are a lot of dead moments in "FSM", and if they had just cut it from 120 minutes to 100, you might have something a bit more special.  Why do comedy film editors just not get it?  For about a hundred years, all good comedies were 85 to 100 minutes.  Then, it seems like in the last five years, everyone makes comedies that last too long.  "Old School"?  91 minutes.  "Naked Gun"?  85 minutes.  "Airplane!" and "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka"?  88 minutes each.  "The Princess Bride"?  98 minutes.  "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"??  Yep, you guessed it--91 minutes.  Dear comedy film director, here's the deal--you can't laugh hard longer than about 90 minutes!!!!

Anyway, all of this is to say that "FSM" is not bad.  The critics' reviews have been stellar for this film, but I'm here to say that if you are on the fence about seeing this film, rent any of the other Apatow productions first...I'll think you'll find those to be better.  If you do decide to see "FSM", at least you get a trailer for Apatow's next production, "Pineapple Express", which has a truly hilarious trailer and it's one of the few R-rated trailers you'll see in theaters this year.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09