Judd Apatow, I’m concerned. You and your cronies seem a bit, how you say, scattered of late. Granted your past ventures haven’t been paragons of continuity, but your latest little romp had me scrambling for the Adderall. The Adderall of the straight-edge kid. So, Diet Coke. Gummi Bear chaser. Regardless, Forgetting Sarah Marshall picks up creatively where 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up left off, and promptly loses its blessed mind. A manic dash through plot and nonsensical editing creates a muddled and ultimately forgettable experience.
The story, for what it’s worth, follows TV composer Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) as he copes with his recent breakup with Hollywood star/near-official little person Sarah Marshall (Kristin Bell). Bretter’s unabashed and humiliating shame-spiral eventually leads him to Hawaii for a little time away. To his surprise, Sarah is at the same hotel with her new rock-star beau, the greasy Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Snap. At his wit’s end, Bretter befriends the hotel’s dark and mysterious customer service rep, Rachel Jansen (Mila Kunis). As the two grow closer, Bretter suffers through one embarassing run-in with Marshall after another. Oh, how will he ever forget?
The cast itself is not what tanks this film. Not entirely, at least. Each player brings enough to the table to provide a fair amount of one-liners. Sadly, that’s the most you can expect. Segel is goofy and sweet and executes a passable pathetique. His general doughiness, however, quickly gets old. Bell and Kunis both give strong performances as beautiful people, although Bell’s mix of likeability and sheer selfishness dredge up some human appeal. Kunis’ turn as the “wild” girl who is so earth-shatteringly irresistible because she spouts more cliches than the bastard child of Obi-Wan and a high school poetry contest winner’s pink and black MySpace page and doesn’t take no crap from no one, hear, is as completely unimpressive as every other performance given by a down-to-earth (brunette) starlet in recent memory. My Nikes couldn’t teach me to Just Do It, and they were on my feet, sister. A couple yearbook quotes from you aren’t going to cut it. The show-stealer is, without a doubt, Russell Brand as the self-adoring, unkempt British rocker Snow. One gets the impression Brand is doing very little acting. His one-liners are delivered so seriously that it isn’t until the scene is over that the sheer ass-clownery of his character becomes evident.
Had the cast been given better material, I’m sure I’d be singing a different tune (probably something by Mika, because his songs are like black tar heroin to my eardrums). Segel’s script, and for that matter, his direction and editing, are such that the movie becomes more of a sequence of small, isolated incidences or flashbacks than a coherent story. The first third of the film is Bretter crying, or talking about crying, or remembering the last time he cried. The audience is then jolted from this one unrelenting theme to the scenes in Hawaii, which are severely fractured and bring the progress of the movie to a crashing halt time after time until it finally drags its mangled stump of a carcass to the end. Ultimately, these little vignettes become muddled and the humor is lost.
In the end, Segel has missed what made the incoherence of Knocked Up and 40-Year-Old Virgin so worthy of celebration – a negotiable storyline propelled by a sequence of ridiculous events. And Steve Carell’s chest hair. Grade: C