FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL - Blu-ray review

At the end of the day, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" fits nicely on any bookshelf with "Knocked Up," "Superbad" and "The 40 Year Old Virgin."

DeanWink

Jason Segel is the star and writer of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Judd Apatow serves as producer and Nicholas Stoller is the film's director. Stoller's career highlight is serving as co-writer with Apatow for the Jim Carrey vehicle "Fun with Dick and Jane." Segel made a minor name for himself for supporting roles in the film "Knocked Up" and the television show "Freaks and Geeks." Apatow has been on fire since his first two directorial projects "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" became very successful hits. The three unite to collaborate for the film "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and the motion picture's marketing has centered mostly around the success of Apatow and his recent string of produced hits that also includes "Superbad," and the Will Ferrell trilogy of "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."

Following in the footsteps of other Apatow projects, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" has a strong legacy to uphold. Thankfully, the picture stands nicely with any of the previously mentioned films not starring Will Ferrell. While those movies are mildly entertaining, only the character of Dewey Cox was one that I would ever care to revisit. The raunchier adult comedies produced and directed by Apatow have been stellar and I have been surprised that the director/producer continues to string along movies that have been rated so highly. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" continues that trend with a strong 7.6 rating on the Internet Movie Database and a more impressive score of 85% on the Rotten Tomatoes infamous tomatometer. While I won't say this film is as entertaining as those directed by Apatow, they are solid entries in the genre.

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" stars writer Jason Segel as Peter Bretter, a television composer who has recently been dumped by television star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). Peter is a slacker who devours large bowls of cereal and would rather spend his days in sweatpants than do something creative. His lethargic ways resulted in the break-up of his longtime girlfriend and Peter soon finds his world crumbling around him as he works on the same show as Sarah and cannot get her out of his mind. His step-brother Brian (Bill Hader) suggests to Peter that he take a vacation in Hawaii to forget his woes and get his groove back. Unfortunately, Peter finds the hotel booked and discovers that Sarah is staying at the same hotel with her new boyfriend, rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). The hotel clerk Rachel (Mila Kunis) feels bad for Peter and allows him to stay free in a room that is currently not booked.

The film continues as Peter has large bouts where he cries like a girl and cannot get Sarah out of his mind. Aldous attempts to be friendly with Peter, but this causes only more heartbreak for the composer. Slowly Peter makes friends with many of the hotel staff that includes the waiter Matthew (Jonah Hill) and surf instructor Chuck (Paul Rudd). He also finds himself as a mentor of sorts to newlywed Darald (Jack McBrayer) who is struggling to break out of his religious upbringing to fulfill the sexual appetite of his new wife Wyoma (Maria Thayer). As Peter continues to drown his sorrows with alcohol and any company he can find he begins to build a friendly relationship with the receptionist Rachel and finds her affections to be a cure for the heartbreak suffered from Sarah.

Plenty of mishaps and uncomfortable situations arise before the final credits roll. Sarah suffers relationship problems with the sexual promiscuous Aldous and discovers jealousy as she witnesses Rachel and Peter's budding romance unfold before her eyes. She attempts to reconcile with Peter, but ultimately fails. However, this attempt costs Peter the interest of Rachel. Peter leaves Hawaii feeling better that is able to move beyond Sarah and forget her, but saddened with how things turned out between him and Rachel. Sarah, Peter, Aldous and Rachel all find themselves continuing on with their lives , but Peter finds solace in completing a puppet based musical about the eternal love of Dracula and from this rebirth of his creative talent he finds himself a new life and a surprise ending.

I laughed continually throughout the film and found myself hoping that Peter would pull himself out of his funk, grow up and become a man again. There were moments where I found myself not entirely liking Peter because of his boorish flaws and inability to move beyond sorrow, but I soon understood the purpose of what Segel was trying to do with the character. I completely disliked Kristen Bell's character and simply wanted to see her suffer some tropical mishap that would get her out of the picture for the lovely Mila Kunis to get more screen time. Brand brings a genuine sense of an oversexed rock star that was far from being the bad guy and the comedian stole nearly every scene in which he appeared. There was heart; there were laughs and there were good performances that made "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" a film I could not possibly dislike.

The beauty of a Judd Apatow film is the ability to intertwine gross-out and adolescent humor with a deep and involved story that has heart behind its sexual-fused jokes. The filmmaker is on a holy mission to include as much penis as possible in his films and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" finds its opportunities to make good on his promise. This is an example of how Apatow has moved beyond gratuitous female nudity and is trying to carve a niche for himself with the stories he tells. Some may find his embracing of full frontal male nudity to be troublesome, but it is a symbol of the more adult nature of Apatow's films and a statement that he is not afraid to shake up taboo and buck the system. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" has plenty of humor that some would consider disturbing, but it never delves into being childish. There is a style to Apatow's films that is unmistakable and this is another fine entry from the filmmaker.

Video:

Universal has released "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" onto Blu-ray with a strong looking 1.85:1 framed widescreen transfer of the film that uses the VC-1 codec and delivers 1080p resolution. All numbers aside, the film looks very good and while it may not be reference quality, it is an above average attempt from Universal. Taking place on a tropical paradise, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" nicely showcases the beautiful Hawaiian scenery in a manner second only to television's best show "Lost." One scene that stands out in particular is the scene where Rachel jumps into the water and Peter is left hanging out on a cliff. It looked absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray at high definition. Detail is very strong throughout the film with many intricate features standing out nicely. Colors are perfectly saturated and black levels are outstanding. The source materials used were pristine and I cannot think of any complaints with the film.

Audio:

The audio provided for "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is the familiar English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that should be very familiar to those that have purchased other Universal titles on Blu-ray. The studio has stood steadfast behind DTS-HD since making the jump from HD-DVD and done great work with the sound format. Regular definition DTS 5.1 mixes are provided for French and Spanish language tracks as well as subtitles for all three languages. While the imagery of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" benefits from the exotic filming location, the sound suffers from the same problem that so many comedies do; sound design just doesn't allow too much energy beyond the front channels. The film is technically proficient, but aside from the musical numbers and a few nice ambient moments during the surfing sequences, the sound mix of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" does not show too much energy. Thankfully, dialogue is clear.

Extras:

Universal has rolled out all of the stops for the Blu-ray release of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." The disc comes packaged with an attractive and shiny slip case for the blue disc casing, which holds the two discs. The film itself is provided with both the original Theatrical Version (1 hr. 51 mins.) and the unrated Extended Version (1 hr. 58 mins.). Switching between the versions is as simple as clicking the "Go To…" menu item on the bottom of the interactive menu. The unrated footage was more moments with Jason Segel and nothing overly racy. Beyond providing two versions of the film to watch, Universal has included a DVD disc containing the Digital Copy of the film. This allows users to create a copy of the film for portable devices such as the Microsoft Zune or Apple iPod or to watch the film on either a Mac or PC. I support this type of bonus feature and feel that anything the studios can do to combat digital distribution is a good thing. I want to have my films in a format I can get my grubby fingers on.

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" comes fully equipped with all of the latest bells and whistles that the Blu-ray format can provide. The disc is enabled with U-Control content that requires Profile 1.1 Blu-ray players to enjoy its Picture-in-Pictured based content. Three items are included with U-Control. The Visual Commentary with Director Nick Stoller, Executive Producer Rodney Rothman, Producer Shauna Robertson, Writer/Star Jason Segel and Cast Members Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russel Brand and Jack McBrayer is spread across the entire disc. The Picture-in-Picture materials span across just eleven of the twenty chapters and four Karaoke selections are part of the interactive package. The U-Control can only be used during the playback of the Extended version of the film. The visual commentary is nicly done and features all six members of the cast and crew sitting around comfortably. I'm starting to enjoy these over standard commentary tracks. The PiP features include many interviews and making-of footage and are a nice addition to the title. Karaoke provides instrumental and vocal versions of the four songs and is quite clever.

It also features Profile 2.0 required BD Live material that wreaked havoc on my Playstation 3, but after some fiddling and deleting of a save file I was able to delve into the pinnacle of home theater technology. At the time of this review, my Playstation 3 had prompted me that new BD Live material was available and I allowed the disc to update my player, but as the time of the writing of this review only an introductory menu detailing how to register and browse the BD Live page was available. Either I'm missing something overly blatant or the features are not yet fully available. It looks similar to what Universal had done with HD-DVD and I look forward to playing with features once they become available. I still feel that Blu-ray should not have launched until Profile 2.0 was ready as most users of the format will not be able to enjoy the next generation interactive bonus materials. The HD-DVD materials were typically promotional, but there were some bonus scenes and such.

The disc contains a large number of features that are playable on any respectable Blu-ray player, although my Samsung BD-P1400 seems intent on not playing anything from the studio, even after a recent firmware update. Thankfully I am a gamer and have a Playstation 3 handy. The features list begins with the familiar My Scenes feature that allows bookmarking and shares scenes with the BD-Live functionality. Karaoke (17:42) includes six songs from the film and allows the user to switch between vocal and instrumental versions. The songs of this film are funny and while I'm not sure why somebody would throw a party for six songs, it is an interesting feature. The eleven Deleted and Extended Scenes (19:24) contain materials not included in either version of the film and those that enjoyed the film will probably find a few other decent scenes here. The extended scenes contain large parts of scenes already seen in the film. The Puppet Break-Up (2:29) is another deleted scene and features a moment from the puppet play seen at the end of the film.

Many of the next special features will seem familiar from "The 40 Year Old Virgin's" Blu-ray disc and have to do with botched lines, impromptu moments and alternate takes. Line-O-Rama (7:49) is a number of outtakes and alternate versions of scenes from the film with a little more crudeness and impromptu hilarity. These were better than the deleted scenes. Sex-O-Rama (2:42) is a collection of alternate sex scenes that were not used in the film. There was far more nudity in this three minutes than the entire film. Drunk-O-Rama (2:29) is the third and final collection of themed outtakes and these center around alcohol humor. I heard ‘snakebite' in this film and started to miss my favorite bar that is now closed. The short Gag Reel (5:44) has a lot of funny moments and some not-so-funny moments.

The next few segments are more involved with the making of the film. "A Taste For Love" (6:17) is a short feature that talks about the making of the puppet play and talks about how Segel had intended to actually write a Dracula musical. The "Dracula's Lament" (Table Read 4/7/07) (3:12) shows a very short piece of footage where some of the actors read lines from a scene in the film between Segel and Mila Kunis. Russell Brand: Aldous Snow (5:56) is s short vignette where actor Russell Brand auditions for the role and members of the cast and crew talk about Brand's getting the part and his work to bring the character to life. The Letter "U" (3:45) is a mock video footage where Brand is in character as Aldous Snow as he tries to work with children on a children's show with the Letter U in a "Sesame Street" parody. It is quite funny and one of the better supplements.

The remainder of the features are a nice collection of promotional and behind-the-scenes items. "We've Got to Do Something"Music Video (3:47) is a mock musical video featuring fictional band Infant Sorrow and singer Aldous Snow. Parts of it were seen in the film. Crime Scene is comprised of Alt Scenes (2:17) that were filmed of the show-within-a-show and not used in the final film. The second and final part of "Crime Scene" is the Hunter Rush Line-O-Rama (1:58) and has more bonus footage from the fictional TV show and some funny and crude lines in a feature reminiscent of the other "O-Rama" segments on the film. Alec Baldwin was funny here. Sarah's New Show – Alts (1:15) is bonus footage from the other mock show "Animal Instincts." The Raw Footage – Video Chat (7:13) shows elements from the film before digital effects and other post-production elements were included and provides a nice look at the making of the film. The Red Band Trailer is the R-Rated advertisement for the film.

Two more lengthy items round out the impressive list of special features included on the "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" Blu-ray disc. The Video Diaries (35:16) is twenty one chapter look at the making of the film that covers various times during the fifty five day shoot, although there is nothing between Day 33 and Day 50. Jason Segel talks about how the film was based upon a terrible break-up and the cast and crew give an honest look at the making of the film. I find these video documentaries to be far superior to most fluff-piece making-of documentaries. The Feature Commentary with Director Nick Stoller, Executive Producer Rodney Rothman, Producer Shauna Robertson, Writer/Star Jason Segel and Cast Members Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russel Brand and Jack McBrayer is the same track as the video commentary, but without the ability to watch the cast and crew interact as they are recording the commentary.

Closing:

I must give Judd Apatow credit for two things. First of all, the writer, producer and director has found himself a niche with the mature comedies he has been churning out. I'm not going to fault him for the Will Ferrell trilogy as it pays the bills, but "Superbad," "Knocked Up," "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and now "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" are all very strong comedies with wonderful stories, great acting and plenty of good jokes. Secondly, Apatow produces amazing home video releases and all of the previously mentioned films have been featured packed discs with good sight and sound that is only hampered by source materials and sound design. Apatow is certainly on a roll and this is just the latest in a trend that I hope doesn't stop anytime soon. At the end of the day, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" fits nicely on any bookshelf with "Knocked Up," "Superbad" and "The 40 Year Old Virgin."

Ratings

Video
9
Audio
7
Extras
10
Film Value
8