I'm not entirely sure precisely what about this film that has prompted me to crawl out of the shadows and begin to rant once again. A combination of things, I suppose. One would be the almost exclusive praise that the film has received from critics and fans alike, despite being lousy. Two may be that this is once again a chance for me to prove that I am not one of these sheep who thinks that I have to like something just because everyone else does. I don't say things to be a devil's advocate, although at times I'm sure, it certainly seems that way. A bad movie is a bad movie regardless of how it ranks on “Rotten Tomatoes.” On the other side, a good movie is still a good movie regardless of the mountains of literature damning it (ex. Uwe Boll's "Postal").
Three is that it's just so damn easy to point out "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"'s numerous crushing flaws, most of which stem from its lack of effort. The opening scene in the film is well documented (so I don't feel bad specifying it), and it involves a naked Jason Segel (Peter) who is informed by his girlfriend of three years that she has been cheating on him, and that she is leaving. There is potential here for a scene of humiliation and genuine heartbreak. The pieces are there for what would have started the movie with a crash course in getting to know and sympathize with its characters. Instead? “Penis is funny!” “Grown man crying is funny!” “Movie is funny!” These three statements may have been true in the right context, but this situation is NOT funny. It is heartbreaking. Why the fear to present it as such?
I know what you're thinking. And you're wrong. You're thinking that this is a comedy, and to make a comedy sad, means it's no longer a comedy. Again, you're wrong. Moments of genuine emotion serve to enhance the comedic elements of a film (or song, or book, or whatever) not exclude them. Does a movie need to include these in order to work? Of course not. But don't present them to us and ignore what you've presented. Don't pretend, as an audience, that there is something real happening on screen when there obviously isn't. Part of the reason that "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" has received its praise is because of its reality. I shake my fucking head.
This is a theme that resonates throughout the film. It continually volunteers content deeper than just silly comedy, and then glazes over it as though it doesn't exist. It introduces quirky characters on the island, all of which could show us a different side of Peter or help him deal with his situation, but are either too quirky to do so, or are on screen for such a small amount of time that they can't make an impact. You could give us glimpses of why Peter and Sarah were together in the first place by making their personalities somewhat compatible (the same goes for Sarah and her new boyfriend for that matter), but decide not to. And then you throw in a scene like “Don't you dare try to tell me that I didn't try. ” Sarah says this during a pointless monologue at one point, in an effort to defend herself for cheating on Peter. Puh-leeze. You could even make the characters real people, so we could understand them more and see our own relationships within theirs. But again, no dice. Sarah Marshall is a celebrity personality, and she's dating another celebrity personality, and most of the complications that arise are because of that fame.
You can give me a "Talladega Nights", and I'm okay with it. It's just silly and doesn't make any effort to be anything else. You can give me a "Superbad" or a "The Forty-Year-Old Virgin" which aspire to be a little bit more, and for the most part succeed. I'm okay with that too. But don't try to cram bullshit like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" down my throat and expect me to agree with you that it's great. It isn't, and neither are you.