Despite not really being a gross-out comedy, the first scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall wouldn’t lead you to thinking that way. In that scene, slacker Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) receives a call from his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), telling him that she’s coming home early. He’s been home alone for a while, and as a result, the house is a mess. He cleans it up, somewhat, and after stepping out of the shower, finds Sarah in the house, with him only being covered by a towel. The towel falls to the floor as he’s in shock that she arrived so quickly, and we get a penis shot.
They continue to talk, Peter letting it all hang out as the conversation progresses, until the conclusion is reached: Sarah is breaking up with him. Initially, she tells him that they just aren’t compatible, but eventually concedes that there is another man. She then leaves, and Peter begins to cry. He tries to hang out with his stepbrother, Brian (Bill Hader), and ends up in a few unsatisfying one night stands. He gets the great idea that he should vacation in Hawaii for a few days, presumably because he figures that a change of location will take his mind off his ex-girlfriend.
This is a man who isn’t all that smart, even though he does compose music for a television show — the same show that happens to star Sarah Marshall. He goes to the hotel without booking a room, and low and behold, it’s all booked. That is, except for the penthouse suite, which costs $6,000 per night. The concierge, Rachel (Mila Kunis) decides to give him the suite even though he can’t afford it, seeing as how nobody actually stays in it the majority of the time. This sounds like it’s going to be a great vacation, doesn’t it?
We need something to ruin his temporary bliss, so guess who shows up? If you guess Sarah Marshall, you win a prize, because she appears right as Peter is getting his room. At her side is the “talented” rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). I guess there was another man after all. The plot follows Peter as he tries to enjoy his vacation while Sarah and Aldous seem to want to sabotage it at every turn, showing up whenever the plot thinks it would be funny. Which is often, so despite Peter trying to forget Sarah (hence the title), that proves to be nearly impossible because she’s almost always on the screen with him.
While it may not be the gross-out comedy that we expect after the opening scene, it does end up being quite the funny experience, while also being quite sweet. Peter may not be the smartest character, but his heart is in the right place, and we genuinely feel for him after he has his heart broken. Even Sarah, the character who breaks his heart, isn’t entirely without redemption. In fact, the only character that you have reason to hate is Aldous Snow, who comes across as a jerk the entire film even before some final revelations cement that fact.
The script was written by lead actor Jason Segel, who has a good sense of comedy and understands just what it takes to make us laugh. But underneath the sex jokes, which populate much of the film — they’re just jokes, for the most part — there’s a genuinely sweet romance to discover. Segel’s character is one that just wants to find love, and while he thought he had it, it’s time to get back on that horse and fix his life. His pick ends up being the concierge, Rachel, although she may or may not be all that into this idea.
I’m still undecided on whether or not Forgetting Sarah Marshall ends like a generic romantic comedy or not. It doesn’t in some senses, but does in another. Regardless, it does enough to deviate from the standard that I’d almost call it refreshing in this area, if only because you don’t know exactly how it’s going to end just from being introduced to the characters. Or maybe you do, in which case, congratulations to you; it took me about halfway through the film to figure it out, so you clearly have greater powers of clairvoyance than I do.
There are a bunch of hilarious supporting acts from the secondary members of the cast, so let’s go over them. The two standouts for me were Paul Rudd as a surfer who has had his brain so fried by weed (and probably other drugs) that he doesn’t remember characters he just met or his own age, and Jonah Hill as the waiter of a restaurant and the self-professed biggest fan of Aldous Snow. I was laughing at both of these characters and their actions, and for most of the film’s runtime, I had a good time.
I think the reason for my enjoyment was two-fold. Firstly, the writing was sharp and witty; its jokes aren’t even as low-brow as you might expect from this kind of thing. Secondly, the characters were mostly likable and had a surprising amount of development, which I don’t think is ever a bad thing. Since I cared what happened to them, the things that happen to them over the course of the plot actually make an impact, and when it comes to an end, you feel for them, good or bad.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a funny comedy that’s actually quite sweet when you get right down to it. The script is sharp, the characters deep and likable, and I can’t say I was ever bored. It also switches some things up from the typical romantic comedy ending, which is always a good thing, even if you’ll still probably figure out how it ends mid-way through. This is a good comedy that will probably be an enjoyable watch, although the opening scene is grossly misleading.