Monday, April 21, 2008

Forgetting Jason Segel's Penis

It was Saturday, the first night of Passover, and a bunch of friends and I got together to have a pot-luck style dinner, with matzoh-ball soup, macaroons, and gefilte fish. Most of us had seen the new Apatow-produced flick, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, on Friday, and as the boxes of wine grew lighter, the conversation grew less and less tactful.

"Maybe," I shouted, "Jason Segel is a shower, not a grower!"

And that's how I'd like to start my post on Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Because maybe he is a shower. A friend of mine, a screenwriter, last night said that all this coverage of Jason Segel bearing it all (literally) is dumb. "You'd think they'd get it. He wrote the movie. No guy with a small dick is going to write a scene where he shows it off. He's got a big dick and wants the world to know. Get over it."

Back to Passover: One of my friends hypothesized that maybe there was an on-set fluffer. Or that maybe he gave it the ol' pre-shoot rough'n'tumble'tug to get things a little longer. I threw out the temperature on set might have been raised. The females agreed as a whole that his unit was sizeable. The guys around the apartment exchanged looks. And moved to the Heineken mini-keg.

But now that we've gotten Mr. Segel's dick out of the way (literally, again), let's talk about the movie. Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Judd Apatow is coming off a two-movie bum-run of Walk Hard and Drillbit Taylor, and Sarah Marshall was dumped two weeks before summer season. So how do we, the audience, fare? Laughter? Crying? Bored indifference?

Luckily, for us, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a charming and breezy little comedy with big laughs. It's also one of the more bizarre Apatow movies in recent memory. 

The movie is strange and oddly over the top. All the characters live in a reality very different than the one from Knocked Up, Superbad, or 40 Year Old Virgin. This is a fantasy world, where a guy like Jason Segel can date one of TV's hottest stars, despite, "wearing sweatpants for a week" ("YOU SHALL NOT PASS"). This is a fantasy world where Mila Kunis works the front desk at the hotel in Hawaii. This is a fantasy world where Paul Rudd is a cross between a stone Owen-Wilson and Rain Man.

But it's this strangeness that saves the movie. Structurally, Marshall is all over the place. I've talked about the third act with a large number of people and none of us could quite agree on what scene the climax took place in. Was it a musical number? A surfing scene? Perhaps an orgasm face-off? Who knows. It's fine. The fact that the climax could have been any of the above plays to the silly nature of the story, and the charming, round about way it behaves.

And the movie is funny, no doubt about it. Technically, the movie suffers from relying too much on its humor. No doubt that Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock fame could have been excised from the film entirely and nothing would have been lost. Jonah Hill's character, a creepy (and not very amusing) amateur-musician, moves the story forward in no way. And Paul Rudd's surfer provides reason to go surfing, but little beyond that. They're funny, but unnecessary. Which makes the movie even weirder. 

The cast is great though, no doubt about it. Jason Segal manages to avoid totally-creepiness and even though his character is pathetic, we're in his corner, rooting for him the whole time. Mila Kunis rocks the boat. She's drawn in fairly bright colors, and she's cute enough and charming enough to buy her role in the story. Russell Brand as Sarah Marshall's rock-star boyfriend, who will fuck anything, anywhere, anytime, is one of the brightest spots of the film. He seems totally removed from reality, when, in fact, he's totally in tune -- he's just not interested in anything other than himself and fucking. Kristen Bell as TV star Sarah Marshall shines really bright (even though she looks like a doll to me -- which kind of creeps me out), proving she's up for anything. One of my favorite moments in the film comes at a dinner (bad idea) between the two couples, as they discuss a film Sarah Marshall was in. Mila Kunis: When does it come out? Kristen Bell: It already did... Then, Russell Brand starts going on about how terrible the movie was. Jason Segel joins in. Soon everyone is trashing the movie, which is about "Cellphones that kill people." I heard this and started laughing. It wasn't a fake movie they were talking about. It was a real movie. They were talking about a movie Kristen Bell was actually in. And ripping it apart on film, in a film. 

That's meta, kids.

I think Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of my favorite Apatow flicks, and I can say in good conscious that I'm probably going to be seeing the movie again, and in the near future. It isn't a perfect comedy, but it's flaws are its charm, and its charm will get you in the end. Because, much like Jason Segel, who wrote and stars in it, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a shower.  And it shows because it knows it is.



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