>> Forgetting Sarah Marshall (John’s Review, 8/10)

forgetting sarah marshallWho would have ever guessed that the demise of the NBC TV show Freaks and Geeks would result in a small flood of fresh comedic talent ready for the big screen? Producer Judd Apatow continues to encourage his former Freaks and Geeks cast to explore their writing side. Seth Rogen wrote one of the funniest teen sex comedies ever, Superbad, and with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jason Segal has written one of the funniest, freshest romantic comedies ever.

Segal stars as Peter Bretter, a TV composer for a popular cop show starring hot young actress Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). They’ve shared a committed relationship outside of the show for a while, until Sarah comes home one day and drops the news that she’s been seeing someone else, public spectacle and rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Peter is completely devastated. Somewhere between a handful of empty, rebounding one night stands and constant bouts of crying, he decides to relax in Hawaii to clear his head and escape his hurt. Upon arriving in Hawaii, however, Peter finds himself at the exact same hotel Sarah is staying at with her new love. He maintains some level of dignity, thanks to a plucky hotel desk clerk (Mila Kunis), but still has to deal with the complications of moping through a tropical paradise while someone parades around with his ex.

Jason Segal makes an interesting leading man, reminding me a little of 70’s comedic leading men that weren’t exactly comedians, like Alan Arkin or Elliot Gould or Richard Benjamin. He’s also a startlingly good writer. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is firstly, and most importantly, very, very funny, and willing to find humor whenever it can, be it character-driven punchlines, some raunchy sight gags, witty bits of dialogue, or physical pratfalls. The rare thing is that every single bit of it, every attempt to get a laugh, gets one. Aside from that, the story also deviates from romantic comedy conventions, steering the old boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl situation into new territory that feels fresh. The movie has unexpected and resonant bits of reality thrown into its comedy, and those truthful, painful moments really elevate this film into something special. I can’t wait for Segal’s next screenplay (reportedly a new Muppet movie!), and if he continues to grow as a writer, he’ll be a comedic powerhouse.

It would be criminal for me to review this film and not mention Mila Kunis, formerly of That 70’s Show, who is so vastly improved here from that show, that she seems like a totally different actress all together. She’s natural, relaxed, funny, and effortlessly beautiful, and I definitely had a movie cruch on her by the time the film was through. Her character, Rachel Jansen, affords a major act of kindness onto Peter when he touches down in Hawaii early in the film, and she’s just so completely attractive, that it doesn’t take long before Peter is thinking about Rachel as much as he’s thinking about Sarah Marshall. I think I need this Mila Kunis to be in every movie from now on.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a homerun movie for first-time director Nicholas Stoller and first-time writer/star Jason Segal. I enjoyed it a little more than producer Apatow’s recent hits, Superbad and Knocked Up, because Forgetting Sarah Marshall is more emotionally complex than those previous comedies. I rooted for Peter, because I know what it’s like to feel like Peter. Add that to the fact that it’s hilarious, and you may have the greatest break-up comedy of all time.

8 on a 1 to 10 scale

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