Judd Apatow's grand plan and psychological experiment is working. Brilliantly.
His movies have desensitized moviegoers so much that the sight of a naked man -- full frontal but briefly -- produces not gasps but guffaws. In "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," actor Jason Segel plays musician Peter Bretter, fresh from the shower when girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) ominously arrives at his apartment.
She asks him to put some clothes on, and he balks. "I know what that means. If I put clothes on, it's over."
3 stars = Good
- Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell.
- Director: xxx
- Rating: R for sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
- Web site: forgettingsarahmarshall.com
But it's over anyway in this R-rated romantic comedy written by Segel, directed by first-timer Nicholas Stoller, produced by Apatow and featuring some of his regulars, notably Segel, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd. See one of Apatow's acolytes, and you just wait for the others to appear in minor or major roles.
"Forgetting" tracks Peter's efforts to get over his girlfriend of five-plus years, an actress on a crime drama for which he writes the music. After some vigorous, uh, dating around, he decides to go to Hawaii, only to discover Sarah has checked into the same resort -- with a sexy British rocker named Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).
The clerk, Rachel (Mila Kunis from "That '70s Show"), takes pity on him and gives him a $6,000-a-night suite for free for a couple of days. After moping around alongside sympathetic hotel staffers and a sexually befuddled newlywed (Jack McBrayer from "30 Rock"), Peter starts to make his peace with Sarah. But she may not be out of his system just yet.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" has a couple of things going for it: its mix of franchise faces with fresh ones, especially Brand as the self-absorbed British rocker who may be in Oahu but still wears black leather pants, and a running time of 112 minutes. That's just about right and 17 minutes shorter than "Knocked Up," which overstayed its welcome.
Its freshest, funniest twist, and its absolute saving grace, has to do with Peter's desire to write a rock opera. Now, that's not something you see in your average romcom or "romantic disaster comedy," as the filmmakers prefer to call it, especially one told from a man's point of view. Yes, the romcoms have been co-opted by men, it would appear.
Segel, known to TV viewers as Marshall on "How I Met Your Mother," Eric on "Undeclared" and good-hearted freak and drummer Nick on "Freaks and Geeks," hits the requisite sweet note that makes movies such as this rise about the raunch. He is a guy's guy who eats cereal out of a mixing bowl but grieves like a girl after his breakup by watching "Project Runway" and weeping uncontrollably.
If you haven't been socialized to the Apatow brand or are offended by salacious material, be aware that the R rating is due to sexual content, language and some graphic nudity. This is not a PG-13 that tiptoed across the line; it's the genuine article.
It resorts to some cheap tricks but, thanks to Segel, it has heart -- broken, mended and most nakedly on display.
Post-Gazette movie editor Barbara Vancheri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632.