Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Forgetting Sarah Marshall springs from an inherently flawed premise. Namely, that the protagonist--someone so emotionally thin-skinned that he must impulsively fly to Hawaii for a week-long recuperation after a breakup--is someone with whom the audience should empathize. Peter (Jason Segel) does exactly this when his longtime girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), confesses to having cheated on him. During this introductory breakup scene, a fresh-out-of-the-shower Peter is so gob-smacked he drops his towel and continues the entire pleading, pathetic conversation in a state of uncomfortable nudity. As his man-junk dangles in front of the audience, it's certainly shocking. Not because he's nude, but because he doesn't have a vagina.
Crying, weeping, and bawling his way through most of the first half of the movie, you expect that Segel (who also wrote the screenplay under the watchful eye of producer Judd Apatow) is attempting to gin up sympathy for his character, but all it does is make it more clear why his girlfriend broke up with him. The guy doesn't even attempt to find a new hotel in Hawaii when it turns out that Sarah and her new boyfriend (a "rock star" played by Russell Brand) are staying at the same one. Of course, this would have made an entirely different movie, but it's also quite impossible to feel any sort of compassion for a weenie so bent on self-flagellation. The relationship that blossoms between Peter and hotel employee Rachel (Mila Kunis) is equally unbelievable. She is far too beautiful and self-assured to be attracted to a pathetic lump like Peter, but blossom the relationship does, leading the movie into predictably treacly will-they-or-won't-they-of-course-they-will territory.
But despite the accidental emotional resonance of a movie like Knocked Up, remember that Apatow and his boys are much more firmly planted on the "comedy" side of the romantic-comedy formula, and, thankfully, what Sarah Marshall is lacking in believability it more than makes up for in laughs. Unsurprisingly for a movie that starts with a visual dick joke, a good bit of the humor is on the crude side, and could seldom be accused of being subtle. Peter's overwrought and impetuous reaction to his broken heart is endlessly wrung for comedy, but it's the wry characters who surround him in Hawaii who provide the movie's funniest moments. Jonah Hill is an annoying dickhead of a restaurant host, Paul Rudd's character is a blissfully ignorant surfing coach, and Brand's rendition of the libertine rock star who has stolen Sarah Marshall's heart is so over-the-top that you almost wish the movie were about him.