I've never felt the need to drink the Judd Apatow-Kool Aid, even as the critical community at large fawns over the writer-director’s films 'Knocked Up' and 'The 40-Year Old Virgin,' and, to a lesser extent, those things that he’s produced like 'Pineapple Express' and this film, 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall.' This mini-empire reminds me of the “Stephen Spielberg Presents” films of the 1980’s, but instead of being defined by childlike wonder and cutting-edge visual effects, the Apatow pictures feature rambling dialogue and static camera angles.
While admittedly, these films are funny (at least in their initial theatrical go-around), their shaggy structure and lack of truly developed female characters (I wouldn’t go as far as to call the Apatow films uniformly sexist, well, yes, I probably would) leaves me feeling more than a little alienated from the entire phenomenon. One of the subversive charms of the Apatow-produced 'Step Brothers' was that it turned the typical Apatow formula (man-child is forced to cope with a mature world) on it's head and made it about literal man-children forced to cope with a mature world.
But I digress…
'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' is the story of a man (Jason Segel, who also wrote the screenplay) who is dumped by his all-too-adorable celebrity girlfriend (Kristin Bell) and, following a hysterical bout of depression (it’s a comedy, after all), decides to take a vacation in Hawaii. There he (of course!) runs into his ex-girlfriend and her glam rock new boyfriend (played by British weirdo Russell Brand).
If this sounds like a typical romantic comedy set-up, it is… mostly. But Segel is such an endearing, believable loser, oscillating between bouts of whiny schlepping and 'How Stella Got Her Groove Back'-esque self-empowerment schlepping, that its hard not to like him. And the script, while adorned with insider-y references to prime time television and rock star hedonism, never goes too off target, staying comfortably within the realms of semi-believable romantic comedy. Also, kudos to the actual amount of sex in the movie, considering how so many romantic comedies refer to it but never actually, you know, show anyone having sex.
The film does, however, share some of the same weaknesses as the other Apatow productions – the improvisational nature of the dialogue leaves many scenes as formless blobs and the film itself is about twenty-five minutes too long. The subplot of Segel’s character developing a Dracula puppet musical is cute, but it never really coalesces into anything truly hilarious. If someone told you about a Dracula musical, you might chuckle, but seeing the whole thing brought to life isn’t that impressive.
Still, I’d place 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' as one of the team’s stronger efforts. Backed by an all-star supporting cast, including Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, and Jack McBrayer and lush tropical scenery (which adds a much needed visual punch), the film is an enjoyable enough raunchy rom-com. Also, for once, the female characters are more fully fleshed out, with both Kristin Bell and Mila Kunis (as Segel’s new island flame) given ample time to show themselves as flawed and interesting characters. Well done, boys.
Side note - if you were particularly wowed by Russell Brand’s fey rocker Aldous Snow, he’ll be back – Segel and 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' director Nicholas Stoller are working on a sequel/spin-off called 'Get Him to the Greek.' Also back for the sequel – Jonah Hill’s gushing fanboy.
This Blu Ray contains both the theatrical cut and an unrated cut, which runs six minutes longer and adds some more nudity while reinstating a funny yoga scene with comedic goddess Kristin Wiig.
The Blu Ray release is presented in a nice 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer, in 1.85:1. For a comedy release, this transfer is fairly striking.
I didn't detect any noticeable edge enhancement. The image is also free of artifacts and grain free. The bright, crisp island colors really pop, adding to the nice sense of depth that the picture provides (it made me crave a high-def release of 'Punch-Drunk Love' something fierce). Apatow movies have never been stellar in the visuals department, but 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' really delivers, and the high definition transfer is a rich, lush achievement – waves break, palm trees sway, and puppet Dracula puts on a hell of a show, all in beautiful high definition.
If there’s one complaint it’s that the mostly sharp picture has a somewhat glaring flaw – all the actors look (and here’s where I’m getting really technical) sort of "glow-y." It’s not terrible, they don’t look like they're in 'Cocoon' or anything, but it's the one drawback of the otherwise pristine video presentation, and something you should consider if you’re thinking of giving this a purchase.
Again, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound isn’t exactly going to blow the doors off your home surround system, but it's still pretty great.
Front and rear channels sound good, with a nice range of sound. While the surround usage isn’t striking, it's there. The movie has a wonderful sense of atmosphere, with plenty going on in each scene, and that nuance is replicated here. Dialogue comes across crisp and clear, never being drowned out by the more aggressive musical sequences (from Aldous Snow’s songs to the Dracula music stuff). The same care was given to the presentation of the dialogue as to the musical sequences, which is much appreciated.
Whew, there are a whole ton of extras on this disc. Let’s all take a deep, cleansing breathe and go from there. Ready? Okay… (Keep in mind these are all presented in HD – 1080i/p and Dolby Digital 2.0. VERY NICE INDEED.)
'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' is far from forgettable. In fact, it’s one of the crown jewels of the Judd Apatow dynasty. If you’re a fan of the movie, don't hesitate to pick up this disc. The audio and visual are quite good, but the special features give you more than your money’s worth. A very nice disc overall. Recommended.