A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a 2008 Judd Apatow comedy in which Jason Segel plays a guy who has just been dumped and is trying to get over his ex. Segel is shown completely naked: It's brief, but we see his penis and buttocks. The movie derives much of its humor from showing or making reference to casual sex and various sex acts. In one montage, Segel's character has one-night stands with a variety of women, breasts shown. In another montage, two honeymooners are shown attempting sex in a variety of ways -- no nudity, but a lot of comical yelling and moaning. Casual sex, group sex, and masturbation are all referenced as one-liners. There's a topless picture of one of the lead female characters that is taped to a men's room wall in a bar; the lead character is shown beaten and bruised after fighting the bar owner after removing the picture from the wall. Attempted oral sex is shown and graphically discussed. Profanity is frequently used, including "f--k" and variations. Characters binge-drink -- beer, wine, cocktails -- and get extremely drunk, and make drug references. However, there's also a thoughtful message and reflection -- as comically exaggerated as it may be -- on the heartbreak, sadness, and difficulties everyone faces at some point after the end of a failed relationship, and how people find a way to try again.
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What's the story?
When his TV actress girlfriend, the titular Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), calls to say she's arrived home early from a trip and is coming over, Peter (Jason Segel) hustles to get his apartment cleaned and strips naked, hoping for an action-packed homecoming. Instead, she dumps him (while he's still naked), sending him into paroxysms of grief. To forget her, he heads to Hawaii -- but, as luck would have it, she's vacationing there, too, with her new beau, rocker Aldous Snow (British comic Russell Brand). In no short order, Peter careens from pining for Sarah to hooking up with hotel clerk Rachel (Mila Kunis). Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn't really all that difficult -- or is it?
Is it any good?
From the movie's skin-baring setup to its end credits, you can't help but root for musician Peter. He's wasted his talents scoring Sarah's stereotypical crime show, instead of working on the vampire puppet opera that showcases his quirky sense of humor. Segel, who wrote the script, is as appealing here as he is on his own TV show, How I Met Your Mother. He has an ear for dialogue and manages to convey the complexity of relationships. And he's supported by a winning cast (his chemistry with Kunis is particularly fantastic) -- the most memorable are Brand, who's simply perfect as Snow, and Paul Rudd, who plays a surfing guru who's taken one toke too many.
But no matter how much you root for Peter, something's missing from this Judd Apatow-produced film when it comes to genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Chuckles, yes, but belly laughs? Not so much. That's because the scenes feel curiously un-punchy; it's as if we've heard these jokes before. Even the much-talked-about naked scene is a letdown (no lewd pun intended). It's just not as funny as it could be. That may be because director Nicholas Stoller allows the movie to meander from one mishap to the next without differentiating peaks from valleys.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the filmmakers deal with the fine line between being crude and being funny. Which side do they fall on more often? Who decides where that line falls to begin with?
Families can also discuss why breakups are popular fodder for movies. Where's the humor in the end of a relationship? Why do you think Sarah breaks up with Peter to begin with? Was his reaction surprising or understandable?
How does the movie use various forms of exaggeration to heighten comedic moments? What are some other examples of movies that derive a lot of humor from exaggeration?
- In theaters: April 17, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: September 30, 2008
- Cast: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis
- Director: Nicholas Stoller
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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