Forgetting Sarah MarshallOverview -
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
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.)
- Commentary with Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Kristin Bell, Jack McBrayer, Nick Stoller, producer Shauna Robertson and executive producer Rodney Rothman - A fairly fun and lively track (which can also be viewed as a video commentary), is somewhat overwhelming without ever devolving into the kind of cacophonous mess that defined the Goonies DVD commentary a few years back. This commentary, and indeed much of the other special features, make one thing explicitly clear – this movie was a whole lot of fun to make.
- Karaoke – This is a weird special feature, with six songs from the movie along with karaoke-style lyrics at the bottom of the screen. One of the songs is the Dracula song Segel sings in the bar in Hawaii. Can’t see myself ever returning to this feature.
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (19 minutes) – These were wisely excused from the film (I can think of a few more that they left in that could have been taken out, too). Lots of walking and talking, and a little more Wiig (yay).
- Puppet Break-Up – Essentially another deleted scene, this is a remake of the infamous break-up scene at the beginning of the movie, except with a naked Dracula puppet replacing a naked Jason Segel. Overlong and awkward, this was another wise trim.
- Line-O-Rama (7:49 minutes) – An Apatow home video staple, this is a collection of scenes where actors cycle through various improvisations. It’s pretty funny, but sort of exhausting.
- Sex-O-Rama (2:42 minutes) – The same as Line-O-Rama, except with bare breasts. Frustrating side-note: super-cutie Kristin Bell’s breasts are blurred. So close!
- Drunk-O-Rama (2:30 minutes) – The same as the two features above, except this is just Jason Segel ordering drinks and pretending to be inebriated. Next.
- Gag Reel (5:44 minutes) – Like every other deleted scene or o-rama feature except this time, at the end, people are laughing. Apparently bugs plagued the set of Forgetting Sarah Marshall – and now we can watch the actors squealing like babies because of those bugs!
- “Taste of Love” (6:17) – This goes in depth into the making of the Dracula musical, an idea of Segels that long preceded the development of 'Sarah Marshall.' This informative feature has interviews with folks from the Jim Henson company who provided the puppets. (Segel is currently writing a Muppet feature for the company.)
- Russell Brand: Aldous Snow (5:55 minutes) – This just recaps the casting process of Brit bad boy Russell Brand and the reconfiguration of the character, who was originally envisioned as an erudite author.
- The Letter “U” (3:45 minutes) – A faux Sesame Street-type appearance by Aldous Snow. Totally bizarre.
- “We’ve Got to Do Something” Music Video (3:47 minutes) – Again, more Aldous Snow, this time it’s the music video for his smash, world-saving single.
- Crime Scene (4:10 minutes) – Clips from Kristin Bell’s character’s CSI-type detective series, with lots of Caruso-esque mugging by William Baldwin.
- Sarah’s New Show (2:15 minutes) – These are promos for the show Kristin Bell winds up in at the end of the movie, and each are really, really ridiculous and funny. Her costar for this new venture? That’s right – Jason Bateman. Excellent. Would tell you the names of the shows but this was probably my favorite special feature so I’m going to leave a little mystery.
- Video Chat (7:13 minutes) – This is raw footage from the “video chat” sequence of the film. So pointless, not all that funny, but here it is!
- Video Diaries (35:16 minutes) – The closest thing the disc has to a “making of” documentary, this half-hour long guide to the movie proves just how much fun it was to make. Everyone looks like they’ve having a great time and ended up with a pretty cute movie!
- Red band trailer (2:55 minutes) – A more explicit trailer (cursing! Segel’s butt!) for the film. Oddly, the original theatrical trailer isn’t included. Not extreme enough, probably.
'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.
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