Forgetting Sarah Marshall (review)

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Forget It

Musician and composer Peter Bretter (Jason Segel: Knocked Up) is heartbroken over the breakup with his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell: Heroes, Spartan) — he’s inconsolable, even. Fair enough; they were together for more than five years, so this seems, at first, like a reasonable response. So why does Forgetting Sarah Marshall taunt Peter for being emotional? Why, because tender emotions are the province of mere women. I mean, my god: A real man scarfs giant bowls of Froot Loops while lounging around in week-old sweatpants. A real man does not cry, at all, ever. Certainly not while trying to get his girlfriend to “talk” about her dumping him. Certainly not while having loveless rebound sex in an attempt to wipe from his mind the hurt she inflicted upon him.
It’s really hard to like a character when his own movie makes fun of him. And much comedy is mined here — if you find humiliation funny, that is — from Peter’s “sensitivity,” as if there were something funny about his pain and suffering. As if there were something funny about men feeling anything other than mindlessly horny 24/7. Which is truly bizarre a tack for Forgetting Sarah Marshall to take when its entire premise is built, apparently, upon the notion that it’s tough for a guy to get over heartbreak. So either it’s true that men feel more deeply than we’re “supposed” to think they do, and hence are worthy of our sympathies, or they don’t, and hence deserve to be jeered at for being woosy girly men. Which is it?

Oh, but you’re not supposed to “think” about a movie like Forgetting Sarah Marshall — in fact, it’s better if you don’t think at all. Then, perhaps, you’ll actually find it shocking and outrageous when Segel appears full-frontally starkers for no reason that makes sense within the context of the ostensible themes of the film, and makes sense only of you’re not paying particular attention to anything except your own desire for a juvenile grossout. (Not that there’s anything gross about the human body except in the eyes of movies like this, of course.) It’s better if you don’t think too much because then you can ignore the ridiculous coincidence that sends Peter, in his continuing attempts to forget Sarah, on a vacation to a resort in Hawaii… where Sarah and her new boyfriend just happen to be staying, too. And definitely don’t think too much about why Peter doesn’t just turn around and leave, go somewhere else… except, of course, that there wouldn’t be a movie if he had done that. But that’s an excuse we’ve heard a lot of these days when it comes to idiotic movies, and it just doesn’t cut it: If there wouldn’t be a movie if not for the absurdity of its own premise that the writer couldn’t be bothered to justify within the context of the story, then, you know, maybe there shouldn’t be a movie at all.

But wait. It gets worse. A sincere depiction of a sensitive male romantic lead would be a welcome thing, but Peter is an unappealing drip — though it’s hard to tell whether that’s because the movie doesn’t like him very much or because he’d have been a drip anyway. And we have absolutely no evidence of anything that brought Peter and Sarah together in the first place — we have no idea what they ever saw in each other. Peter’s moaning and moping, which gets more unbearable and more unbelievable the more he puts himself in Sarah’s path, appears to be the result of the screenwriter mistaking tedious minutiae for honesty. (The screenwriter is first-timer Segel himself; the director is his fellow Undeclared vet Nicholas Stoller, also making his feature debut.)

And yet, as if, apparently, to make up for Peter’s unrelenting and unpleasant dreariness, the movie is stuffed with random pointless asides about, oh, bartenders who know all the fish in the area and pothead surf instructors and sex-crazed British rock stars. Paul Rudd and Russell Brand, respectively in the latter roles, are the best things here, are full of snappy energy and offbeat charm that the rest of the movie lacks, but it’s like they’ve been imported at great expense from another story entirely. They only highlight how much Peter’s tale feels like it’s dragging itself through goopy mud… and how little it can barely even bother itself to make the effort.

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Spencer
Spencer
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 3:46pm

To avoid both of us the frustration, I’ll keep my comments to wondering why you don’t see the sympathetic side to the humor regarding Peter’s emotional response to the breakup.

For one thing, it is written by Segel in a role he plays, which would speak volumes against a hard-heartedly cruel interpretation of finding humor in his hurt. For another, I just can’t believe that you really think that pain at a breakup simply cannot be funny on some level, at the very least in a personal retrospective fashion, which given the screenwriter is entirely plausible.

All of Apatow’s movies which have him in more than a producing role and utilize Freaks and Geeks/Undeclared alumni I see as over-the-top yet sympathetic portraits and critiques of a particular slice of American masculinity. The changes the characters undergo during the movies indicate that while the events portrayed in the setup and payoff of the premise might be funny in a frat-boy sort of way, they are not particularly admirable or desirable ways to live your life. Thus we see Peter getting his act together and becoming a much more mature and productive member of society by pursuing his dream and taking the incredibly vulnerable step of putting them out there and open to critique (i.e., the Avenue Q-esque Dracula rock opera– incidentally, I think Stephanie D’Abruzzo made a cameo here).

Movies like FSM are sympathetic in that they don’t try to preach at the slice of masculinity they represent, which would just shut them down. These movies also do not overtly and dogmatically condemn them. They instead toe a very delicate line (and, I think, do so admirably) between allowing the audience to laugh along with (and, if they see fit, at) the antics of the characters, and then they insert overtly the heart and the message of the movie which was only implicit before: essentially, that staying perpetually adolescent is funny and all for a bit, but at some point one must wake up and enter the real world with all its responsibilities. If one has not shut down by this point due to the raunch and crudity, then one is able to see what the bulk of people have: that these movies have sweet and meaningful hearts underneath the veneer of juvenility.

So to tie this all together in relation to Peter’s emotional response to the breakup, I see FSM as incorporating elements of the above gently chiding sympathetic portrait with a style present in “40 Year-Old Virgin,” in which the hero learns that while certain aspects of his adolescent outlook might need to change (i.e., coasting through life in a minimum-wage job playing video games vs. coasting through life eating Fruit Loops on the couch), his essential character is just fine the way it is (i.e., there’s nothing wrong with being a virgin vs. there’s nothing wrong with being a sensitive man hurt by a breakup). We are given absolutely no indication that post-Marshall Peter is any less sensitive than he was at the beginning of the movie. While I think that the nudity was mostly played for cheap and immature laughs, one could make the argument that they serve as bookend scenes which highlight Peter’s vulnerability. This is the sympathy underlying the laughter at Peter’s emotional response: that while he changes as a person and grows up as a result of this breakup, THAT ASPECT OF HIS CHARACTER remains untouched– it doesn’t need to be changed.

Chris
Chris
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 3:52pm

Man I swear you just hate everything that any of the Freaks and Geeks crew puts out. You dont seem to get that most young males, mostly ages 16 all the way to 30, relate with these male characters or at least know someone like the main character. He isnt the most attractive guy, he isnt driven to perfection, and he is a slob just like most of us. This film is a decent look at how most men handle being dumped. In this movie we get the crying baby, the man looking for a rebound and the man that some how still believes that he is going to get back with his old flame. The film then shows us how he moves on. It also shows that sometimes in the case of the woman she might not realize until it’s too late that she already had a great guy. Also as far your comment on the full frontal scene, Segal has stated before that he put that scene in the movie because he has had that exact scenario happen to him before. Is the humor crude, yes it is no worse than the scenes of There’s Something About Mary.

Rick
Rick
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 4:08pm

My fiancee and I saw this yesterday, and we LOVED it. It was at times hilarious, at times very touching, and very entertaining. It was written well enough that characters who would normally be “villains” in more simplistic movies get a chance to show their own humanity, and in the end, nobody is the “bad guy”, they’re just people muddling through.

Here’s the thing – you keep presenting your reviews of “Apatow Gang” movies as if all the characters have to be either/or propositions, but very few real people are like that. Peter is both pathetic (understandably so) and sympathetic (because he’s human). And Peter at his most pathetic is funny because, if you’ve been through anything like a bad breakup and taken it hard and moped around and cried your eyes out, at some point down the road, when you’re in a better place (and assuming you have a sense of humor about yourself), you’ll look back and laugh at how ridiculous it all was.

That’s why it’s funny when Peter is lying on the floor crying with a beautiful Hawaiian sunset out the window: we’ve all (probably) been there, in that place where we don’t even notice how amazingly beautiful the world is because we’re so deep in our own misery, but it’s going to pass, and then we’ll be able to recognize the beauty again. We laugh at the familiarity and humanity of it.

Getting back to the either/or issue: none of us would be worth a damn if we were judged as harshly for our worst moments as you’ve tended to judge the characters in most of Apatow’s movies over the last 18 months. The thing is, we ALL make mistakes. We ALL say things we wish we hadn’t, things that hurt other people or have ramifications beyond anything we intended. We ALL have made a hash of a situation because we didn’t read things properly or recognize something that, in hindsight, was REALLY obvious. That’s part of being human, and that’s why I love the characters in “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, “Knocked Up”, “Superbad”, and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” – they make mistakes (just like real people do) and try (but sometimes fail) to do better (just like real people do).

Judd’s movies are about people who are imperfect, but not in the perfunctory way that most movies use for shorthand (ie, “he’s a man of action, but he forgets to call his daughter on her birthday because he’s so busy saving the world”). They’re imperfect like real people, and they try to deal with that like real people: recognize when you screw up, apologize if you hurt somebody, try to learn from it and do better. And keep trying, because you’ll probably never get it 100% right.

JT
JT
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 4:22pm

I really hated this movie too. Thought it was lazy and predictable tripe. But I disagree with the statement that “It’s really hard to like a character when his own movie makes fun of him.”

Madgadabout
Madgadabout
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 5:01pm

I, too, had some problems seeing what brought them together in the first place. Sarah Marshall seems like a completely self-involved twit and Peter Bretter seems like the fairly pathetic man-child that has come into vogue. Are these really the archtypes for contemporary relationships? Is that how a movie like this makes it to 85% on rotten tomatoes?

Ryan
Ryan
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 5:43pm

I wrote like 20 responses to this review, and then deleted them all. I enjoyed this movie on it’s merits, you did not…I get the sense nothing I type will change your mind. I think maybe that you are over-thinking these, however. Unless a comedy is a satire, it is a genre that can be forgiven for exchanging some believability of plot for humor.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 6:41pm

Spencer wrote:

I just can’t believe that you really think that pain at a breakup simply cannot be funny on some level,

Did I say that? Did I imply that? No, I didn’t. I just don’t see that it’s treated as humorous *and* human here.

Chris wrote:

Man I swear you just hate everything that any of the Freaks and Geeks crew puts out.

No, I don’t. *Freaks and Geeks* and *Undeclared* are brilliant (as I wrote here about *Undeclared*).

At least have the courtesy of being honest if you’re going to (attempt to) insult me.

Chris again:

He isnt the most attractive guy, he isnt driven to perfection, and he is a slob just like most of us.

I can see that that might be the case. But the movie makes fun of Peter’s vulnerability. How can that possibly appeal to you? The movie is saying that you’re a woosy girly man if you demonstrate that you have human emotions. That’s okay with you?

Segal has stated before that he put that scene in the movie because he has had that exact scenario happen to him before.

I’m sure that’s true. It’s the way that is depicted here that is the problem. I honestly do not understand that so many people seem not to get the concept that almost anything can work onscreen — it’s *how* it’s treated where the problems come in. In this instance, as I’ve already discussed, it’s the *how* of this nudity that is the problem, not the nudity itself. This movie acts as if most adults will be shocked at what the male body looks like. Which is bullshit. Do you know what a penis looks like? I know what a penis looks like. I think we all do.

Rick wrote:

you keep presenting your reviews of “Apatow Gang” movies as if all the characters have to be either/or propositions, but very few real people are like that.

I agree (that people aren’t like that, that is). People are complicated. But these movies make fun of us in our vulnerability. I see that as dishonest and unfair. I didn’t want to laugh at Peter — I wanted to cry with him, because of course I’ve been in a similar position as he’s in. But this movie didn’t want to let me do that.

More from Rick:

Judd’s movies are about people who are imperfect

Well, you know, everyone is imperfect. I wish the Apatow-gang movies acknowledged that that’s a human place to be, and not a place that we should laugh at.

Ryan wrote:

it is a genre that can be forgiven for exchanging some believability of plot for humor.

I’ll agree with that. But I don’t think it can sacrifice character for humor.

Phil Urich
Phil Urich
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 6:54pm

I get it, you’re sad that there will never be any more Freaks And Geeks, nor even Undeclared. It’s depressing, I know. I say this because without having even seen this movie I knew beforehand precisely what you were going to write in your review, and so yes, I don’t know for sure how accurate it is but it strikes the *exact* same tone as your other recent Apatow reviews, and I get the impression that it almost doesn’t matter what the content of the movie is, the review will turn out the same. Which is a shame, because normally I find your reviews quite insightful, and to be able to know what you’ll say ahead of time tells me that something is seriously disconnected here.

(Did you catch Apatow on the Daily Show a few days back? Since you’re finding so much to hate in everything he’s behind these days , I’d recommend watching his interview with Jon Stewart so you can at least go “aha! He is still funny, yay”)

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Apr 21, 2008 6:59pm

I get it, you’re sad that there will never be any more Freaks And Geeks, nor even Undeclared.

No, not really.

I don’t know for sure how accurate it is but it strikes the *exact* same tone as your other recent Apatow reviews, and I get the impression that it almost doesn’t matter what the content of the movie is, the review will turn out the same.

*Of course* it matters what the content of the movie is! Do you seriously, honestly believe that it does not? But if the movies all strike the same tone, why would you seriously, honestly believe that my reviews would not?

Scott P
Scott P
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 1:50am

I haven’t laughed so hard in the movie theatre since seeing, well, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Yes, it IS funny & we like to to laugh at poor saps like Carell & Segel. Not every comedy has to be hilarious & intellectually deep– some comedies (like this one) are just hilarious & that’s more than enough for me.

After reading Mary Ann’s review in which anyone who finds humor in Peter’s “humiliation” & “pain & suffering” gets scolded, I thought of the classic comedies “10” & “Arthur” & how hilarious Dudley Moore’s pathetic characters were.

Thank goodness movie execs don’t follow Mary Ann’s advice that “If there wouldn’t be a movie if not for the absurdity of its own premise that the writer couldn’t be bothered to justify within the context of the story, then, you know, maybe there shouldn’t be a movie at all.” Dudley Moore rescued Bo Derek’s husband…so she agrees to sleep with Dudley while her hubby recovers. Yeah, that premise makes a whole lot of sense. Movies in which they shoot rockets into space in order to land on & destroy approaching asteroids makes perfect sense too. But I digress.

Spoiler alert!
I can’t believe you neglected to mention the sexually-awkward newlyweds (Jack “in search of the mythical clitoris” McBrayer & Maria “Christ between her thighs” Thayer) or the Dracula rock-opera. When Peter sang the Dracula love theme for Rachell at the locals bar, I laughed until tears rolled down my face.

Brett
Brett
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 3:10am

I dunno…I guess I don’t see why people are arguing with MaryAnn on this. She dislikes most of what the Apatow crew are putting out (although she dug Walk Hard, so that kind of kills the whole “You hate Apatow and any films that have his hand in them” argument). I don’t really agree with her, but it’s all opinion.

Plus, it’s comedy, the most subjective genre in the world! I don’t go out of my way to argue with people who don’t share my opinions on what is funny or what isn’t because I know that when I don’t think something is funny, it just isn’t. Arguing about it really won’t change anyone’s mind.

Rick
Rick
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 9:04am

Brett – personally, I’m not arguing with MaryAnn. I realize that comedy, in particular, is very subjective. I posted what I posted because this is a popular review site, and I’m hoping that anybody who reads the negative review will also read the comments and be curious enough to see the movie themselves, rather than just “Skipping It”.

Also, “Walk Hard” isn’t really an “Apatow Gang” movie. While he did act as a producer, it doesn’t feature anybody from “Freaks and Geeks” or “Undeclared”, and is more stylistically influenced by Jake Kasdan (though Judd did co-write the script). The same applies to “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights” – while Judd was a producer, they’re much more Will Ferrell/Adam McKay movies. That said, I was surprised that MaryAnn liked both “Talladega Nights” and “Walk Hard”, particularly the former, given her previous dislike of Will Ferrell’s movies (which I generally find wildly uneven).

Spencer
Spencer
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 10:16am

MaryAnn– in the sentence you quoted from me, I did not mean to give the impression I was attributing that sentiment to you. I was trying to make the point that in criticizing laughing at someone’s pain (in a movie), there are only two reasons I can see why this criticism would be put forth: 1) pain of this kind is never funny, or 2) it is funny when done a certain way, and in this movie it is not done properly. I was actually attempting to be charitable and ruling out (1) outright since I did not believe you would hold such a ludicrous position.

The bulk of my comment was attempting to make two points: 1) that the humor was for me done correctly, and why; and 2) that the motive I believe you impute to the movie (i.e., making fun of a sensitive man in a cruel or otherwise less than admirable fashion) I simply cannot see at all from the presentation on screen. Rick is making the same point as well, at least insofar as he and I saw the same positives to the movie (and other Apatow brands).

And this part is for anyone who thinks I or anyoe else am “arguing” with MaryAnn on an objective level: lest you think that I am attempting to infringe on your subjective response, I assure you I am not. At least, I am not attempting to infringe on the subjectivity of it by presenting an objective critique. I am presenting my own subjective response, with my subjective perceptions of your subjective response, and asking if you see any (subjective) validity to these sentiments.

This is the type of dialogue I am trying to present, and it’s your perogative to refuse to engage in that dialogue. In a response to Chris, you stated “But the movie makes fun of Peter’s vulnerability. How can that possibly appeal to you? The movie is saying that you’re a woosy girly man if you demonstrate that you have human emotions. That’s okay with you?” I am attempting to present a position that 1) I saw nothing of the kind in the movie, and 2) because of this and the underlying pathos I did see in the presentation, I enjoy the movie on those merits.

I suppose I could just take the tack of some and say simply, “Well, I liked it and that’s that; que sera.” And since I really fell in love with your reviews for your geek sensibilities, perhaps that’s wise on non-geek films. However, I prefer to present rationale for my position rather than bald assertion, and I hope to (and love) engaging others in a dialogue about the myriad and gloriously diverse ways people see art. The deeper point of this enterprise for me is to widen my horizons and test different points of view. Therefore, it makes little sense to me for two people to just say, “Well, I see it like A;” “Well, I see it like B,” and leave it at that. “What about this angle? Have you considered this point? What is your response to this criticism?”– that is my intention in commenting.

Moe
Moe
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 11:54am

MJ, you’re one of my fave critics but we will never see eye to eye on Apatow’s films. Hence, i will stop taking your advice when it comes to these comedies.

40 yr old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad and this are some of the funniest films of the 21 century but i suppose they don’t appeal to certain demographics.

I mean, jesus, you even hated Harold and Kumar!?!
I don’t know a single person in my life who doesn’t love that film and i know a lot.

I’m very curious as to what you have to say about H&K 2.

Spencer
Spencer
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 12:24pm

You don’t know me, but I (obviously) like Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks/Undeclared movies and I did not like H&K (sans mind-alterings substances, that is… I haven’t and don’t want to try it with them). So there.

On the whole, though, you have good advice. I think I should take it. Sorry, MaryAnn, for subjecting you to my frustrations.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 1:51pm

Not every comedy has to be hilarious & intellectually deep

Did I say it did?

MJ, you’re one of my fave critics but we will never see eye to eye on Apatow’s films. Hence, i will stop taking your advice when it comes to these comedies.

Great! No one should automatically take my advice on any film.

40 yr old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad and this are some of the funniest films of the 21 century but i suppose they don’t appeal to certain demographics.

I’m not a demographic. I’m a person. And I like a lot of movies that supposedly are not “supposed” to appeal to me.

I mean, jesus, you even hated Harold and Kumar!?!
I don’t know a single person in my life who doesn’t love that film and i know a lot.

Well, now you know a person who doesn’t like that film.

I’m very curious as to what you have to say about H&K 2.

It’s not going to screen for critics — which tells you what the studio thinks of it right there — and I have no plans to see it. The title infuriates me, though, which is probably something I will write about.

JoshDM
JoshDM
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 4:24pm

I thoroughly enjoyed 40 Year Old Virgin.

I was excited to see Knocked Up. I was bored by it.

I was excited to see Superbad. I enjoyed it.

I have no desire to see this movie, but the part in the trailer where Jonah Hill calls for a table for one is hilarity defined.

JT
JT
Tue, Apr 22, 2008 4:33pm

That scene is not even in the movie actually.

JoshDM
JoshDM
Wed, Apr 23, 2008 11:11am

If it isn’t, then I shall have to settle for film delivery via the flix of net.

Justin
Justin
Thu, Apr 24, 2008 1:06am

you interpreted it as making fun of him but it’s not, even he says this is based on his real life and I can identify with him and this is not a mockery and men take rejection just as hard as women

Jon Owen
Jon Owen
Thu, Apr 24, 2008 11:00am

Hello again Mary,

It’s such a great pleasure to read your reviews as you have a unique and intellectual perspective. I suspected “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” would irritate you as you don’t suffer fools gladly.
Maybe a comedy like “Metropolitan” would suit you more given the more rarefied, highbrow humor. It’s about a New York society clique of young people welcoming a guy from the wrong side of town.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Thu, Apr 24, 2008 12:13pm

I’ve seen *Metropolitan,* and I like it okay. It’s hardly one of my favorite movies or anything.

tim
tim
Fri, Apr 25, 2008 12:00am

Cheap mexican food is the same 5-6 ingredients arranged in a different manner, and cooked by different means, but it all tastes the same in the end. This, to me, is the metaphor for the Apatow brand name in film right now. The whole Apatow Universe reminds me a little of Kevin Smith and the empire he started to build in the mid-90’s that ultimately fizzled out (and hey, Seth Rogen is in Kevin Smith’s new film).

amanohyo
amanohyo
Fri, Apr 25, 2008 11:49am

Woah now, I grew up in San Antonio and although I’m no food expert, cheap enchiladas taste nothing like cheap tamales or cheap fajitas. I get your analogy, but I think you mean cheap Mexican fast food. More specifically, Taco Bell food. Even “high end” fast food from Baja Fresh and Chipotle has some variety.

Sorry to whine, but I love Mexican food, and sometimes the cheapest places are the most satisfying. Also if the Apatow brand becomes as successful and long-lasting as the Taco Bell brand, he’d be more than satisfied. I doubt that’ll happen, but Apatow has definitely shown that he’s got more range than Kevin Smith.

Butch
Butch
Fri, Apr 25, 2008 3:55pm

good grief. I just saw this movie, and it is just plain funny. Great supporting cast and self depreciating humor is pretty much what makes EVERY guy in the world laugh. There’s Something About Mary? Remember? You cannot overanalyze comedy, I would even say you cannot review it. Your review, if you feel you must publish for the world, should be one sentence long and only contain two words:

its funny.

OR

not funny.

you may also want to include:

to me.

I think most guys have been cheated on and/or dumped so don’t feel like you are the only one who has been to that horrible place. That was why I was able to laugh because it is not a permanent disaster. You get over it, you move on. If you are lucky you get to hook up with Mila Kunis.

There are so few good comedies with any intelligence to them. I would hope you could get behind those few.

amanohyo
amanohyo
Fri, Apr 25, 2008 4:57pm

So Butch, are you saying that it doesn’t matter why something is funny? Is there only a single kind of funny? What about movies that only have elements of comedy in them? Are we allowed to review those? What are those last two paragraphs of yours doing?

I know overthinking things can be bad, but maybe you should spend a little more time thinking through your list of commandments before you seize control of the internets. You could further streamline your reign by dictating that all reviews be reduced to:

A) It was entertaining.
B) It was not entertaining.

(to me)

Maybe you could employ an innovative graphical system to indicate which of the choices the reviewer had selected, that way we wouldn’t have to deal with words at all. I humbly submit that a raised thumb and a lowered thumb would serve the masses well.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sat, Apr 26, 2008 11:35am

self depreciating humor is pretty much what makes EVERY guy in the world laugh.

It makes me laugh too. But I didn’t see this as self-deprecating. I saw it as self-hating.

There’s Something About Mary? Remember?

If you had bothered to read my review of that film, you’d know what I think of it. (Hint: It’s worse than this one.)

You cannot overanalyze comedy, I would even say you cannot review it.

So then why did you seek out a review of this film?

you may also want to include:

to me.

In what way is that not implicit in every single review of anything written by anyone?

tim
tim
Sat, Apr 26, 2008 2:59pm

amanohyo, I like mexican food. Cheap, expensive, and everything in between (I live in Arizona, so plenty of options). My metaphor wasn’t an insult or compliment – just simply that the Apatow universe (like the View Askuniverse of K. Smith) feels interchangeable to me. It’s the same type of character in the same type of situation in the same type of context.

amanohyo
amanohyo
Sat, Apr 26, 2008 4:24pm

I gotcha tim, just making sure you weren’t assuming that all cheap Mexican food had to taste the same. Some of my relatives are from a tiny midwest town, and they’re convinced that Taco Bell accurately represents all Mexican food. It bugs me.

That phrase “Apatow universe” is kind of frightening. Even if such a monstrous thing has truly been forged, I think it has a better chance of changing into something genuinely interesting before it collapses than the View Askuniverse ever did. But this movie doesn’t strengthen my optimism.

Mike
Mike
Sat, Apr 26, 2008 5:24pm

Don’t quit your day job……Unless I personally thought that your opinion had merit, I will probably see this movie 10 times. I love “critics” and the attempt to take a high road against humor pointed towards “random pointless asides about, oh, bartenders who know all the fish in the area and pothead surf instructors and sex-crazed British rock stars”. Somewhere inside of you there is a teenage girl that wants to laugh. A girl that has not been hardened by the world or feel the need to bash a masterpiece. Let that girl out and you will find this movie much more enjoyable. If I were a critic to the masses, I would sum this movie up in one word…awesome.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sat, Apr 26, 2008 7:06pm

Somewhere inside of you there is a teenage girl that wants to laugh.

Riiight. Cuz that could be the only possible explanation that someone would disagree with you — secretly, I really do think Just Like You.

And this is my day job. And I’m not a critic for the masses.

Mike
Mike
Sat, Apr 26, 2008 9:38pm

Truth of the matter is…I do not think this movie is a masterpiece. On the other hand, I think a little brainless humor could do this world some good. Your review was well written and very thoughtful, and you are very good at your job.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sat, Apr 26, 2008 11:16pm

I think there’s plenty brainlessness in the world already. Silly doesn’t have to mean stupid.

Daniel
Daniel
Sun, Apr 27, 2008 10:34am

Just saw the film, one of the funniest i’ve seen in a long time.
The bluntness of Aldous: “I think it’s just a metaphor for a crap movie”
The complete trippiness of the surfer Chuck: “When life gives you lemons, say f**k the lemons and bail”

Those two lines themselves are some of the funniest i’ve ever heard in my life.

I understand it is the purpose of a review to analyze a film, but i believe you’ve thought way too much about it. The naked scenes definitely provide a good cringe, but why do they have to be anything more than a device to throw off the audience and set up the off beat comedy that we see throughout the film.

Is it necessary ? Maybe not, but would comedy exist if directors and writers always stuck to normality and necessity. Of course most of the script has elements of absurdity, but i think youll find that to most people absurdity is synonomous with comedy.

Reading your review, it almost sounds like you have ignored the latter part of the film, where he gets over Sarah? The bit where he actually writes his absurd and funny opera, where he ends up with Rachel? That is what his earlier pain makes you want for him, that happiness, and Jason Segel has done well to slowly lead the plot to that resolution.

It’s a shame you haven’t enjoyed this comedy, when it really does have a lot to offer.

Thanks for your review.

Mike
Mike
Sun, Apr 27, 2008 1:09pm

What is “stupid” to one may be hilarious and even smart to another. There has to be a reason that these movies are tremendously successful and well liked. I think that a critic should look at a movie in the eye of Joe Public. Would it not give your opinion more merit if it were not skewed by the fact that you do not enjoy “stupid” humor. Two of my friends (who are doctors) actually peed a little during this movie.

Jason
Jason
Sun, Apr 27, 2008 1:55pm

So…pretty much anyone can start up a website and call themselves a critic, huh?

FancastGal
FancastGal
Sun, Apr 27, 2008 7:36pm

I haven’t seen this movie yet (had to watch Harold & Kumar first!), but apparently all the real “sarah Marshalls” are pissed with the ad campaign and are lashing back!

http://bigpicture.fancast.com/2008/04/fancast_feature_sarah_marshall.html

Mitchell
Mitchell
Sun, Apr 27, 2008 10:37pm

You just completely bashed this movie for no reason. I saw it yesterday, and it was pure gold. You say that you see Jason Segel’s penis for no apparent reason. If you didn’t laugh at the awkwardness or shock value of that, you have no sense of humor. Then you also say, or, you make fun of Segel’s sensitivity. 5 and a half years is a long time to date, then get cheated on and broken up with for no apparent reason. Yes, this movie makes fun of that, but they aren’t demoralizing the character by any means. You say you can’t like the main character since the movie’s making fun of him. You’re telling me you don’t like Peter? The man that didn’t do anything wrong, that was a great boyfriend to Sarah Marshall and got cheated for no reason? You don’t like him? You also criticize the plot of them staying at the hotel saying in the real world he would’ve high tailed it out of there. No, I wouldn’t. It was apparent that he was planning on spying on him at first, maybe that’s why he would’ve stayed. One more reason is the damn dignity, I would’ve stayed in that same beautiful resort to show I wasn’t hurt by her breaking up with me, even if I was.

All your criticisms are criticisms that can made for any movie. Don’t like the main character?
Departed- Matt Damon. Was that an awful movie?
Something could be avoided by an easy move?
Many, many movies have this. King Kong, why didn’t they just leave the island?

You criticize this movie for having things that every movie has. Your review is unreliable and incorrect. Have a good life, having a hate for this great comedy.

Jurgan
Jurgan
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 9:22am

“So…pretty much anyone can start up a website and call themselves a critic, huh?”

Yep. Damn that whole “free speech” thing!* Who cares what some powdered wigs in 1791 thought?

“You say you can’t like the main character since the movie’s making fun of him. You’re telling me you don’t like Peter? The man that didn’t do anything wrong, that was a great boyfriend to Sarah Marshall and got cheated for no reason? You don’t like him?”

I think she was saying that she wanted to like the main character, but the movie belittled him so much that it was impossible. Now, tone is a very subjective thing- it can be hard to judge the difference between what characters in a movie thinks, and what the movie itself thinks. There are times when characters feel one way but the movie implicitly condemns their attitudes. I think you’ll find, if you look at MAJ’s negative reviews of comedies (particularly Apatow movies), the main bone of contention with commenters has to do with tone and the attitude towards the characters’ actions. She interprets the tone of movies differently than do some of the commenters. It’s subjective enough that there’s bound to be disagreements.

*May become invalid if net neutrality fails to pass.

tim
tim
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 3:58pm

Mike, I’m curious about this statement (and others like it in this discussion)…

“I think that a critic should look at a movie in the eye of Joe Public”

Is that really the job of a critic, and even if it is how is that possible? Joe Publics stamp of approval occurs at the box office and has nothing to do with critical analysis.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 4:23pm

Those two lines themselves are some of the funniest i’ve ever heard in my life.

They are pretty funny. They also bear no connection whatsoever to the rest of the film.

i think youll find that to most people absurdity is synonomous with comedy.

I like absurd comedy. This is not absurd comedy. Monty Python is absurd comedy. This is a mundane, banal story that wants to be sentimental, with a side dish of non sequiters.

What is “stupid” to one may be hilarious and even smart to another.

Yes, that’s true. But I was responding to someone who specifically called this movie brainless, as if that were a good thing.

I think that a critic should look at a movie in the eye of Joe Public.

That’s not criticism. That’s consumer reporting.

Would it not give your opinion more merit if it were not skewed by the fact that you do not enjoy “stupid” humor.

No, I don’t think my opinion would be more valuable if it were not my opinion. Funny how that works…

So…pretty much anyone can start up a website and call themselves a critic, huh?

Absolutely! But not everyone can build a web site over more than 10 years into one of the most popular movie review sites on the Net. I know my reviews are not for everyone, but clearly some small segment of the moviegoing public finds them useful.

Mike
Mike
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 5:08pm

The reason I stated “in the eyes of Joe Public” was to make a point that people don’t personally know a critic. How can I agree with their personal opinion if I do not know their likes and dislikes. How can I give their opinion merit if I don’t know anything about them.

I feel as though you are taking my criticism as a personal attack. It is not by any means. I find your review interesting, hence the need to keep responding.

Do I think a critic should look at a movie in the eyes of Joe Public? Absolutely. Do you know why rottentomatoes.com works? It is simple…when a consensus is high that a movie is worth seeing, then it usually has some redeeming value. By pooling all of the critics and their “opinions”, it is easy to weed out the “opinions” that are personal or skewed.

A consumer that attends a film usually does so as a Friday night escape. Or maybe a date night. Whatever the reason, they don’t pick apart the small details that don’t resonate to a casual movie watcher. I just think movie critics try to hard to sound intelligent or individual. Haven’t you ever heard someone say…”the critics gave it a horrible review so it must be worth seeing!”

Please keep in mind that I am not the one that said anyone can be a critic. I think you do a damn good job and are very intelligent. Keep up the good work, I should probably take my opinions elsewhere before I get lynched.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 5:32pm

The reason I stated “in the eyes of Joe Public” was to make a point that people don’t personally know a critic. How can I agree with their personal opinion if I do not know their likes and dislikes. How can I give their opinion merit if I don’t know anything about them.

That’s why, if film criticism is important to you, you find a critic whose taste seems to coincide more often than not with your own. You get to know a critic through his or her writing.

Do you know why rottentomatoes.com works? It is simple…when a consensus is high that a movie is worth seeing, then it usually has some redeeming value. By pooling all of the critics and their “opinions”, it is easy to weed out the “opinions” that are personal or skewed.

I agree that RT works — I’m an RT Tomatometer critic. But RT works because it’s about the consensus of many, many critics. No one critic could do what RT does.

A consumer that attends a film usually does so as a Friday night escape. Or maybe a date night. Whatever the reason, they don’t pick apart the small details that don’t resonate to a casual movie watcher.

And what makes you think I’m writing for a casual movie watcher? I would have thought that the briefest survey of my reviews indicates that I am not.

That said, if I went on a date with someone and that person didn’t want to rip apart the movie, one way or another, afterward, I would consider that an unsuccessful date.

I just think movie critics try to hard to sound intelligent or individual.

Yeah, we try so hard to sound that way. It’s not like we *are* intelligent or individual or anything. We just have to fake it.

Haven’t you ever heard someone say…”the critics gave it a horrible review so it must be worth seeing!”

Yes. And I don’t hang out with those people. And I don’t imagine they’re wasting their time reading my reviews. So we should all be happy.

Mike
Mike
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 5:42pm

Well…..you are definitely an individual.

Mike
Mike
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 5:53pm

“That said, if I went on a date with someone and that person didn’t want to rip apart the movie, one way or another, afterward, I would consider that an unsuccessful date.”

One final thought….

If that is your idea of an unsuccessful date than I now understand why you were unable to find the humor in this movie.

Mike
Mike
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 6:00pm

“Yeah, we try so hard to sound that way. It’s not like we *are* intelligent or individual or anything. We just have to fake it.”

One more final thought…..

I never said you were not intelligent by any means. I was simply stating that critics try to talk profoundly about something that is not intended by any means to be so. This is the problem I have with reviews. A good popcorn movie gets bashed for not living up to the standards of the critics. Why? Are they afraid to admit that they like it in fear of looking less intelligent? After watching the previews, did you expect to find the secret to life here?

Jody Miller
Jody Miller
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 6:49pm

Just happened to read your review on RottenTomatoes, and while I personally dont agree with you, thats okay. I just feel as a journalist you should maybe research what you are going to put out for others to read. In your review you make a pretty big deal about the scenes where Jason Segal is nude for “no reason”. Well Segal in numerous interviews has stated that the movie is semi-based on his breakup with Linda Cardenelli who was also in Freaks & Geeks, who actually broke up with him while he was in the nude. So maybe there actually was a reason for the scene in the movie?

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 11:28pm

If that is your idea of an unsuccessful date than I now understand why you were unable to find the humor in this movie.

By “rip apart,” I mean, of course, that ripping apart can be a positive response to a movie, too. If I go to a movie, I want to talk about it afterward. If I’m with someone who’s not interested in doing that, well, I’m not gonna be spending a lot of time going to movies with someone like that.

A good popcorn movie gets bashed for not living up to the standards of the critics.

Why don’t you read some of my reviews of popcorn movies? I like popcorn movies… when they’re good. This one is not.

who actually broke up with him while he was in the nude

And…? Just because something happened in real life does not mean it automatically makes sense just to throw it into the story. From a perspective of story context, it makes no sense as it is presented here.

Bryan
Bryan
Mon, Apr 28, 2008 11:43pm

I saw the movie last night and I have to say it is the funniest movie I’ve seen since Wedding Crashers. And I did not like Super Bad and found Knocked up somewhat funny. But then again I also don’t find smacking coconuts together to simulate horses all that funny either.

I don’t see what is wrong with showing Segel’s character crying on the floor. It makes you laugh and want to cringe for him similar to the answering machine scene in Swingers. It is extreme of course but it only makes the ending that much better.

And what is so bad if memorable lines have nothing to do with the main plot of the film. I can think of many great lines that have nothing to do with the plot of films. As far as the naked scenes, I agree they were unnecessary, but I’m not going to write off the whole movie over that. Oh well, when in Rome.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Apr 29, 2008 12:48am

I don’t see what is wrong with showing Segel’s character crying on the floor.

I’ll repeat myself again: there’s nothing wrong per se with just about anything that can be depicted on film. It’s the tone and the attitude with which it is depicted that makes it work, or not. There’s nothing wrong with Peter’s crying and being upset. There’s something wrong with making a huge production out of it in order to hold Peter up as somehow less than a man for feeling something so strongly.

And what is so bad if memorable lines have nothing to do with the main plot of the film.

Again, it’s not so much about the lines not having anything to do with the plot. It’s about them not residing in the same tonal area. Hollywood comedies are particularly terrible these days at finding a tone and sticking with it. These movies appear to be designed for people with absolutely no attention span, and I find that insulting.