Peter Bretter (Jason Segal) is the boyfriend of television star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), as well as the composer on her hit show, Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime. Blindsided by their breakup and attempting to get over Sarah, Peter escapes to Hawaii only to find she is also vacationing there with her new boyfriend, rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).
In an improbable set of circumstances, Peter is offered the most expensive suite in the hotel free of charge (it is unoccupied) as Rachel (Mila Kunis), the front desk clerk, takes pity on him. Soon he is befriending fellow vacationer Darald (Jack McBrayer), along with other hotel employees and flaky surf instructor Chuck (Paul Rudd). Although only staying for a short time, Peter quickly bonds with his new friends, easing him out of his depression and establishing Rachel as a new love interest. One of the more interesting aspects of the movie is the way their romance is portrayed. Rachel’s attraction to Peter is played much less romantically than his attraction to her. In fact, she seems almost uninterested in him for most of the movie.
The movie’s other two leads, Sarah Marshall and Aldous Snow, are the natural counterpoint to Peter and Rachel, but they are more fleshed out than one would initially expect. For instance, while Sarah is initially made out to be the heartbreaking villain, as the movie progresses the audience gains more insight into the reasons behind their breakup and is given a more complete story. While Aldous is more cartoonish than many of the other characters (with the exception of Darald, the frightened virgin on his honeymoon), his characterization is saved by Brand’s completely straight-faced delivery of ridiculous, and frequently ad-libbed, opinions on everything from sobriety to sexual prowess. One of the bonus features includes his audition and how his interpretation of the character, which initially was written as an older British professor, won over Segal and the rest of casting as the character was transformed into Brand’s persona.
One of the movie’s strengths comes from its supporting players, many of whom have starred in other Judd Apatow productions, such as Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, and Paul Rudd, as this is yet another installment in the hugely successful string of films “from the guys who brought you The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up”. Apatow and company have managed to create a template of romantic comedy/buddy film that includes a mix of over-the-top raunchy humor and more traditional broken-hearted vulnerability that Forgetting Sarah Marshall makes further use of, although director Nicholas Stoller does tone down much of the raunchiness for this movie.
A better than average romantic comedy, despite a plot with few surprises, Forgetting Sarah Marshall owes a great deal of its success to Segal and the sincerity he brings to his character. It is a genuineness that makes the audience both root for and identify with Peter. Surprisingly, much of the material used in the film came from Segal’s own real-life breakup, from the naked breakup to his attempts to get his puppet Dracula musical into production (when he was a struggling actor). The fact that he was able to translate his experiences into the script and reenact them for this film says a lot about how seriously Segal takes his comedy.
The unrated version of the movie contains an additional seven minutes of footage, notably a scene featuring Kristen Wiig as a yoga instructor clearly smitten with Aldous Snow. The bonus features are a standout and are spread throughout two discs, the highlights being the video diaries shot during filming; extended and deleted scenes; the gag reel, alternate scenes from the CSI-spoofing Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime, starring a very funny David Caruso-spoofing William Baldwin; a featurette on Brand; and commentary with director Nicholas Stoller, Jason Segal, and more of the rest of the cast. The special edition might be worth getting if only for the hilarious deleted scene of Bell’s Sarah Marshall going horseback riding. The three-disc collector’s edition also includes a digital copy of the film to easily the transfer the movie onto a computer. Overall, the bonus features add a great deal to the movie as they offer a more complete picture of the story, as well as more insight into the writing and shooting process.