2008 isn't over yet, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the best comedy of the year and on a short list of the year's best films. It's also the the best romantic comedy since There's Something About Mary a decade ago.
Of course the temptation to compare the movie with Mary is there. It's been the comparison for every "raunchy" comedy in the last ten years -- but "raunch" is not the reason I mention Forgetting Sarah Marshall in the same sentence. It's the originality of the film, which takes a fairly standard romantic comedy plot (boy loses girl, boy gets better girl) and elevates it with all kinds of unique details (the main character is working on a Dracula musical done with puppets, for one) and an excellent supporting cast.
How I Met Your Mother's Jason Segel -- who also wrote the screenplay -- stars as Peter Bretter, a musician dating actress Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell of Veronica Mars), the star of the massively successful TV series Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime. When Sarah breaks up with him (while he's naked, no less, in one of the film's most memorable scenes) and his life falls apart, Peter heads off to Hawaii to get his head straight. Once there, he runs into -- surprise! -- his ex on vacation with her new boyfriend, rock star Aldous Snow (British comedian Russell Brand in a star-making performance). Running into the girlfriend he's trying to get over on a daily basis doesn't make healing a broken heart any easier -- but a burgeoning friendship with a cute hotel worker (That's '70s Show's Mila Kunis) certainly doesn't hurt.
Apatow & Co.
The movie was produced by comedy Midas Judd Apatow (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up), who got a lot of the credit for the film. Several of his repertory company are present, including Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd in funny supporting parts; even Segel got his start on Apatow's Freaks & Geeks. The film also carries on the Apatow tradition of mixing rated-R humor with a kind of romantic sincerity. Though most of the credit should go to Segel and first-time director Nicholas Stoller, Sarah Marshall goes a long way towards reinforcing the quality of the Apatow brand. He's become like the Pixar of comedy.
Breaking Up is Hard to Do
What's better than how funny Sarah Marshall is -- and it is very, very funny -- is how seriously it treats the feelings of all its characters. This is a movie that genuinely understands how break-ups can feel, and deserves a lot of credit for not shying away from those moments while still managing to be an excellent comedy. It helps that much of the movie (including the naked break-up) is autobiographical for Segel; he's able to infuse the right amount of pathos and give the movie a true, beating heart. There aren't even any villains, really; even Sarah gets one excellent scene where she explains to Peter why it didn't work with them. Real emotions are at stake with all of the characters, grounding the (sometimes broad) laughs and giving the film lasting power.
A Whole Lot of Extras
The two-disc DVD of Sarah Marshall continues Universal's trend of jam-packing their comedy DVDs -- particularly of the Apatow brand (think of the DVDs for The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up). The disc comes with both the theatrical cut of the film and an extended, unrated cut that runs about seven minutes longer. While the unrated version is worth a look (mostly for a scene featuring Saturday Night Live's Kristen Wiig, who was cut out of the finished film), but the theatrical cut is tighter and funnier. That's the version I'll be going back to in the future.
The best bonus feature is a very funny commentary track with the stars and director Stoller. But, then, nearly all of the extras (spread out over two discs) are funny and worth watching; the sheer volume of them makes for a bit of overkill, but if -- like me -- you're a big fan of the movie, the overkill is welcome.
A third disc contains a "digital copy" of the movie, for use with computers, iPods, iPhones and other portable media players.
- Release Date: September 30, 2008
- Running Time: 111 minutes (R-rated)/118 minutes (Unrated)
- 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (1.33:1 Full Frame also available)
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio (English)
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio (French)
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio (Spanish)
- Spanish Subtitles
- French Subtitles
- English Captions
DVD Bonus Materials
- Deleted/Extended Scenes
- "Line-O-Rama" Alternate Dialogue Takes
- Gag Reel
- Cast/Filmmaker Commentary on Rated/Unrated Versions
- Video Diaries
- "We've Got to Do Something" Music Video
- "Russell Brand: Aldous Snow" Featurette
- "The Letter U" - Russell Brand on Children's Television
- Cast and Crew Auditions
- "Peter and Aldous Meeting" Raw Footage
- "Jason Segel and Bill Hader" Raw Footage
- "Dracula's Lament" Table Read Version
- "Dracula's Lament" Alternate Version
- "A Taste for Love" Puppet Featurette
- "Behind the Scenes: Puppet Break-Up"
- "Sex-O-Rama" Montage
- "Drunk-O-Rama" Montage
- "Crime Scene" Alternate Scenes
- "Crime Scene" Line-O-Rama
- "Sarah's New Shows" Montage
- Cinemax Final Cut: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Red Band Trailer