Initially when I saw the trailers pimping Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I was probably going to blow off seeing it. It was clear that Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin), who served as this film's producer, brought his entire stock company with him in the feature. In the trailer alone, you had Jason Segel, Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd, all of whom were in Knocked Up, and Bill Hader was in Superbad. Stop the insanity! But at the end of the day, I knew I was going to see it; the minute my wife saw the trailer and said she liked it, I was going. And once I did see it in the theater, I saw it one more time, just to be sure, and now that it's on video, I've seen it a bunch more times in this review, and my thoughts have evolved over repeated viewings, but more on that in a minute.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller, who was previously a writer on Apatow's Undeclared show, the script was written by Segel, who stars as Peter, a composer for a television show where he provides the musical cues. He met Sarah (Kristen Bell, Heroes), the female lead on the show and has been dating her for several years. While Sarah's star continues on the rise on this CSI-style show (complete with Caruso-like one-liners by its male star), Peter seems to be both happy in and oblivious of his complacency. Sarah decides to break up with him at a time that was less than personally convenient to Peter. I know, any break-ups aren't, but this one a little more than most. Peter is rightfully shattered by this turn of events, and at the urging of his friend Brian (Hader), he decides to go to Hawaii to try and forget about her. However, not only does he see her in the same resort they've traveled to, but she's accompanied by her new boyfriend Aldous (Russell Brand, Penelope), a British rock star who is, well, a bit of a free-spirit. Peter has to reconcile these feelings of rejection and betrayal, coupled with the feelings of a possible new relationship with a resort employee named Rachel (Mila Kunis, That 70's Show). If you haven't seen the trailer, I've just saved you two minutes of your life. Your welcome.
Now I mentioned earlier that I've seen the film a few times already and my views on it have changed and transformed a little bit with each viewing. I laughed my butt off when I first saw the film, perhaps more so with this film than with other features that have had the Apatow seal of approval stamped on them. I was familiar with Segel both with his cinematic work and his work on the show How I Met Your Mother, and while I hadn't seen much of him before HIMYM, Segel plays Peter as a fairly sensitive guy who doesn't hesitate to make a gross joke or two if the situation allows. Which leads me to my current thoughts on Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Speaking on the aforementioned sensitivity for a second, Peter represents a lot of guys that have loved a woman, only to have their metaphorical heart ripped from their chest. The scene when Peter is dumped finds him naked, sure, but I think there might be a larger emotional symbolism here as well. He's casting aside all vulnerability to try and make his relationship with Sarah work and make her happy, even though there's no way that's going to happen. Many men have felt that way, but I hope to God that none of you have been dumped quite the same circumstances. And yet few people managed to capture it as well as Segel is able to. In fact, Peter's malaise is probably as funny as it is because of how identifiable it is to so many people.
The other signature moment of the film is the events leading up to Peter's performance of his composed musical, which, for the sake of comedic experience, I'll try to stay away from as much as possible. Sarah provides lip service when it comes to supporting Peter in this ridiculous endeavor, however Rachel helps Peter face his conventional fears and apprehensions and inspires him to finish it. To move on, in a larger sense, and do something, rather than sit around and feel sorry for himself. And that is the larger story at hand in Forgetting Sarah Marshall; Peter's transformation. He's almost like a neglected wife to some degree, except for the whole "P versus V" thing. He's looking to transform from caterpillar to butterfly; Rachel helps him accomplish this. And while Segel, Hill and Rudd are in the film in semi-prominent supporting roles, and they do manage to pull out some hilarious improvising, they're focusing on the characters without intruding on Segel's story. Bell, Brand and Kunis are all equally capable in their roles as well. The story manages to find the right balance between the Apatow-influenced comic sensibilities and the emotional sensibilities of a human being who manages to pull themselves off the proverbial floor after being knocked down. Peter's ride is hilarious, poignant and well worth the exploration.
Both the theatrical and unrated cuts are in 1.85:1 widescreen and use an AVC MPEG-4 codec, which breaks from Universal's traditional use of the VC-1 codec. Honestly, I wasn't all that impressed with how the film looks on Blu-ray. The flesh tones seem to have a little white push to them, especially on the very tan Kunis, and the image suffers from quite a bit of softness, and the exterior shots lack any real sharpness or image depth. Foreground image detail tends to be weak as well. The scene in the resort where Sarah and Rachel talk and Sarah starts to tear up a little bit, both Kunis and Bell are almost airbrushed into the background, something I don't remember noticing in the theater. While I'm assuming the picture is an upgrade over the standard definition image, it can't be largely conspicuous.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is also on the downside. Now granted, this movie is a romantic comedy, so there's not a lot to expect from it to begin with, but there are a lot of exterior shots that don't pull in all the ambience that I was hoping, directional effects are next to nothing (the club scene where Peter plays the song for the first time being the lone exception) and low end fidelity is nil as well. The dialogue sounded clear and didn't require any adjustment on the front end, and there were some moments where the character moves off screen and speaker pans helped to accompany it, but this does feel like a wasted sonic effort overall.
Wow, who ordered all this bonus material, 'cause it's kind of a lot. So you've got the rated R cut, but you've got an unrated cut that's six minutes longer than the theatrical, and there's some more nudity, along with an excised sequence featuring Kristen Wiig (Knocked Up) which is kind of funny. Getting into the smaller extras, there are karaoke versions of the songs in the film, but you can toggle between the instrumental and vocal versions of the songs, of which there are six (17:42). The karaoke songs are also part of the Blu-ray's U-Control feature, which includes picture-in-picture footage, and a visual commentary with Segel, Kunis, Brand, Bell, Jack McBrayer (who plays a newlywed staying at the resort), Stoller, producer Shauna Robertson and Executive Producer Rodney Rothman. Segel gets into the real-life aspect that inspired the film, and Stoller talks about various production elements, but this is more jokey and fun than all that informational. Besides, if you see the extras, you'll know what they're talking about in a lot of cases. Oh, and check out the special guest star with no spoken lines on the visual commentary too. Eleven deleted and extended scenes (19:24) are next, a couple of which are interesting in how they harden Aldous' character a little more, and there's also a proper goodbye scene between Peter and Sarah, but the rest of the scenes are forgettable. The break-up scene is recreated by puppets (2:29), but includes a little more venom in the context of what Peter wanted to say in retrospect after the breakup. This was actually kind of funny. The Line-o-Rama (7:49) section is mainly focused on Segel and Hill, with Hill's lines being funnier. Sex-o-Rama (2:42) includes alternate takes with Peter and the "Hi" girl, while Drunk-o-Rama (2:29) watches Peter get his crunk on. The gag reel (5:44) has a couple of funny moments but is largely underwhelming, while "A Taste of Love" (6:17) looks at the rehearsals of and preparation for Peter's musical. There is some table read footage (3:12) which shows Segel perform the song in front of the cast for the first time, and that's also pretty funny. A piece on how Brand got the role is next (5:55), including some rehearsal footage with him, and thoughts on the character from the crew and from Brand, and even some song rehearsal footage too. "The Letter U" (3:45) is a Sesame Street-influenced sketch where Brand sings a children's song parody of his hit that he performs at the resort. The concept is pretty funny, the execution not so much. "We've Got to Do Something" (3:47) is a video based on Aldous' hit single, while footage of Sarah's show Crime Scene follows (4:10), along with some alternate lines by its star Billy Baldwin. There's some footage in the end credits for Sarah's new show that's included here, along with some other show teasers. I personally enjoyed "Ghost Cop", "Divine Justice" and "Walks With Angels." A series of brief video diaries from the set are next (35:16), which are cast and crew interviews mainly, along with yet more footage that didn't make the final cut. There wasn't a whole lot of information here, though it did get me even more homesick to go back to Hawaii. The Hader-Segel computer chat, some of which was in the film's trailer, is next, in its raw form (7:13), with a lot of crack-ups between the two. The film's red-band trailer follows (2:55). And what do you know, a digital copy of the rated cut of the film is on a second disc for your portable entertainment enjoyment, along with the fact that the disc is BD-Live enabled (downloadable content was not available at the time of this writing).
Guys, go out and rent Forgetting Sarah Marshall for your girlfriends/wives/significant others. There's enough funny jokes in here that the hilarity carries through, and she'll enjoy some of the tenderness exhibited by the story, all the more so when she realizes that a guy wrote it. The audio and video aside, there's a wealth of extra material here, and you'll certainly enjoy it more than once, so you might want to grab it to earn bonus points at home. Call it the "pleasant surprise" cinematic experience of the year to date.