Have you ever watched a movie expecting to see a “scene missing” disclaimer flash across the screen?
It’s as if you thought there was more to it than what you just saw. That was the feeling I had throughout much of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a comedy about a young man who is dumped by his television-actress girlfriend and travels to Hawaii to help him forget her. The problem with the film is that it has the same effect on the audience as it too is ultimately forgettable.
Jason Segel plays Peter Bretter, a television music composer with aspirations to finish producing an opera based on the life of…Dracula and performed by puppets. But as with his work and his relationship with girlfriend, Sarah (Kristen Bell), he lacks motivation, which frustrates his significant other. She decides to pursue greener pastures by beginning a relationship with rock musician Aldous Snow, played by Russell Brand in a funny performance. The scene where Peter is dumped requires him to be naked and brooding over her leaving. I couldn’t help but think that something funny was supposed to be occurring as he asks for one last hug from the business suit-clad Sarah while still naked. But much like Peter himself, the scene lacked follow-through.
It’s as if the filmmakers thought, “Hey, we have a naked guy being dumped by his well dressed girlfriend-people will be so surprised that they’ll have to laugh.” We don’t.
The movie has a few funny moments at the beginning. In one scene involving Sarah’s CSI-inspired television series titled, Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime, she and her TV detective partner, Hunter Rush (William Baldwin), share wisecracks while observing a body on an autopsy table.
“It’s going to be hard for her to go to the prom…without a face,” quips Baldwin, who seems to be channeling his brother Alec (star of NBC’s 30 Rock) in a funny, though small part. I also liked the early scenes with the British lothario rocker. He’s a cross between Bono and Noel Gallagher of Oasis.
However, the movie becomes increasingly unfocused once Peter reaches the island in Hawaii, accidentally bumping into his ex-girlfriend and her new beau. Scenes involving Paul Rudd as a surfing instructor, along with a newlywed couple with problems in the bedroom have an unfinished quality to them. The punch lines to these jokes seemed to be mistakenly edited out of the film.
Then, there is a moment when Sarah has a verbal spat with her rocker boyfriend at the hotel. He reveals a bit more information about himself than he should, which literally drew a gasp from me, but not a laugh. Was that supposed to be funny? It seemed wildly inappropriate and mean-spirited given the film’s light-hearted tone. Then there are the moments involving Rachel (Mila Kunis), a pretty hotel desk clerk who likes Peter and sets him up in a resort that he can not pay for. Why she would be interested in this brooding sap is never explained, nor is the reason why she accepts his advances knowing why he is at the resort.
The film was produced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up), and directed by Nicholas Stoller, based on the screenplay by star Segel.
But when you’re dealing with an issue as universal as a break-up, it needs to be developed through the shared experiences of the characters and audience, not lame comic situations that have no basis on the events in the film, only to be forgotten later.