"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a wonderfully crafted, well written comedy that’s not quite as funny as other Apatow projects, but features that same heart that made the others so wonderfully great.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Unrated (2008, Blu-ray)
Directors: Nicholas Stoller
Producers: Judd Apatow
Writers: Peter Segal
Features: * Commentaries * PiP Video Commentaries * Featurettes * Video Diaries * Karaoke * Outtakes and Gags * Deleted Material * Raw Footage and Alternate Material * Bookmarking * BD-Live * Digital Copy
Jason Segel ... Peter Bretter
Kristen Bell ... Sarah Marshall
Mila Kunis ... Rachel Jansen
Russell Brand ... Aldous Snow
Bill Hader ... Brian Bretter
Liz Cackowski ... Liz Bretter
Maria Thayer ... Wyoma
Jack McBrayer ... Darald
Taylor Wily ... Kemo
Davon McDonald ... Dwayne the Bartender (as Da'Vone McDonald)
Steve Landesberg ... Dr. Rosenbaum
Jonah Hill ... Matthew the Waiter
Paul Rudd ... Chuck
Forgetting Sarah Marshall Blu-ray Review
It was only a matter of time before "Freaks and Geeks" star Jason Segel managed to land his own Apatow-produced comedy--and rightfully so, Segel is a great comedian with a keen eye for the awkward. He manages to tap into a whole new realm of geek and gleefully exploits his discovery with zest and charisma. He’s not the brutish oaf that Seth Rogen ("Knocked Up") is and he’s not the calm, unaware buffoon that Steve Carrell ("The 40 Year-Old Virgin") can often be. Rather, he’s the sensitive guy who’s constantly concerned about how others feel while being worrying that he’ll ultimately be judged and sloughed off by those very same people.
Here, Segel plays Peter, a moderately successful composer who’s dating TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). She dumps him in the opening scene which causes Peter to spiral into a very dark, lonely place where nothing, not even casual sex, can bring him comfort. He decides to take a trip to Hawaii to get her off his mind, only to discover that’s she’s vacationing there with her new boyfriend, a disgusting, offensive musician named Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Thankfully, Peter finds aide in the form of a hotel server named Rachel (Mila Kunis) who turns out to have a lot in common with Peter. The two immediately hit it off, but hit a few road bumps once Sarah’s relationship with Snow heads south.
Segel, who also scripted, does an amazing job painting fantastically awkward situations and stunningly charismatic characters that feel both real and overblown all at the same time. Segel’s Peter is just pathetic, but there’s a sweet tenderness underneath his naïve goofiness that shines bright, making him almost handsome and charming. Kunis, who is normally over-the-top and abrasive, is surprisingly great here as Rachel. She knows just how to push Peter’s emotional buttons, driving out the real man that hides beneath his teary-eyed exterior. The two characters share a fanciful chemistry, driving home the film’s emotional core.
Kristen Bell and Russel Brand are also good with their surprisingly complex characters. There are moments where we almost want Bell’s Sarah to get back together with Peter. Other times, it seems she’s getting exactly what should be coming to her. Such complexity and moral ambiguity is genuinely rare in romantic comedies. Kudos to Segel (and Apatow, who's known for his heartfelt, morally centered characters) for crafting a dynamic set of on-screen pseudo-villains for us to root for, and hate all at the same time. The rest of supporting cast, which features many Apatow regulars like Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill, are fantastic, hiding hilarious comedic gems in every corner.
Nicholas Stoller’s direction is a bit unwieldy at times, with a somewhat uneven tone, but he does a fine job with his cast, allowing them to balance caricature with character. He even drives out a great performance from Mila Kunis, who I was not very confident in going into the film. His sense of pacing is certainly tighter than Apatow’s own projects or Jake Kasdan’s biopic spoof, "Walk Hard." Even the unrated cut of the film moves by swiftly.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a wonderfully crafted, well written comedy that’s not quite as funny as other Apatow projects, but features that same warm heart that made the others so wonderfully great. Keep ‘em coming, Mr. Apatow.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: A-
Film Value: A-
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" arrives on Blu-ray in 1.85:1 widescreen at 1080p/AVC video on a BD50 disc. I was disappointed with the overall look of "Sarah Marshall" when it hit theaters, feeling that the film didn’t quite indulge in the beautiful Hawaiian landscape, but honestly, this has to be the one of the worst looking transfers of a new release I’ve ever seen! With two PiP tracks, hours a bonus goodies and deleted material, Universal has crammed way too much onto a single disc resulting in a transfer that almost looks worse than a standard 480i DVD.
Where to start? The entire image is completely flattened, lacking any depth or clarity. The entire transfer looks out of focus. There’s nothing sharp or clean, not even the lush Hawaiian landscape exteriors. Everything looks as though it’s under a drab haze of cloudy fog. Colors are saturated, dense and murky. Black levels are inconsistent, lacking any sort of depth. I didn’t notice any film grain or dust, but the transfer is so patently terrible, it doesn’t really matter.
Annoyingly, the numerous special features, outtakes and deleted material from the film actually look significantly better than the actual film itself! I’m left to assume it was a space issue, or Universal ran into some major kinks with the AVC codec (they typically use VC-1). Either way, why this film wasn’t given a two-disc treatment is beyond me. I could care less about a Digital Copy disc and I’m guessing most hardcore cinephiles feel the same!! Give me a good high def transfer, first and foremost. What a major disappointment.
"Sarah Marshall" comes to Blu-ray with a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Again, there’s nothing to cry home about. The mix is a major let down. Surround usage is sparse, at best. Not even the front surround channels get a workout. Hell, they barely even get a heavy lift. The center channel is left to do all the dirty work. At least it sounds mostly clean, but I found the volume tuned a bit too low leaving some of Jason Segel’s dialogue muffled and hard to hear. Sound design is just terrible. The musical numbers don’t pop in the way they should and simple directional surround effects that should be handled by rear channels are output through the center. This mix is surprisingly terrible.
As with all Judd Apatow adventures, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" comes to disc with a bevy of hilarious outtakes, deleted scenes and more. Sadly, Universal crammed so much onto just one disc, it ruins the overall presentation of the film itself. The DVD gets a three disc set, why couldn’t the Blu-ray? The three disc DVD set even sports some extras that aren’t on the Blu-ray! Remember Universal, Blu-ray is supposed to deliver a superior presentation over DVD. Not the other way around. Argh!
• Rated and Extended Versions -- The high-def exclusive goodies are packed onto the extended version only. The extended cut adds about seven minutes of additional scenes and was my preferred version.
• Commentary -- Featuring the cast and crew, this is a lively party track with little by way of behind-the-scenes info. Rather, this track just serves as a delightful reunion of obviously talented stars chit-chatting about "this little film" they all made together. Fun, but not very informative.
• Deleted/Raw Material -- Witness over two hours of deleted material as well as raw and alternate promo footage for Sarah Marshall’s various TV endeavors and an amusing promo for Aldous Snow’s kids show.
• Outtakes and Gags -- There are literally dozens of outtake sequences split up into different sections ranging from Apatow’s regular ‘Line-O-Rama’ to a standard, but funny gag reel, raw footage between Segel and comedian Bill Hader, and even some clever montage reels called ‘Drunk-O-Rama’ and ‘Sex-O-Rama.’ There’s also a puppet variation of the opening break-up scene! There’s so much here to keep you in stitches long after the credits have rolled. It’s truly great!
• Video Diaries -- Over 40 minutes of video diaries from Jason Segel that chronicle the making of the film. Fun, informative and well edited. For those seeking insight into the making of the film, this is probably the best feature for that.
• Featurettes -- There are a few brief spots about the film’s puppet musical featured at the end of the film as well as a table read and a fluff featurette with Russell Brand as Aldous Snow
• Music Video and Unrated Trailer -- You know the drill with these.
• Digital Copy -- Instead of a jam packed two disc set, we get a single disc with a bonus digital copy of the film on disc two. Yay! Now you can copy a low-res version of the film to your portable media device, because that’s what high-def owners are gonna do--bypass their $5000+ home media entertainment center to watch a movie on a three-inch screen!
Again, this should have been a three disc set as these goodies alone would cram up the disc. Alas, what we do get is pretty great.
• PiP Video Commentary (profile 1.1 and above) -- Featuring behind the scenes footage paired with light interviews from the cast and crew. The spots are not as frequent as I would like, but what we do get is certainly informative.
• Feature-Length PiP Video Commentary (profile 1.1 and above) -- This one’s a little annoying. Basically the track is exactly the same as the running audio commentary, only now you can see everyone sitting in a room. Yippee! There are some visual treats, but overall I could have done without this track.
• Karaoke (profile 1.1 and above) -- As stated above, there are a few musical numbers in the film. When they appear, you can sing along. The actual singing has been removed and lyrics pop up at the bottom of the screen. Fun, but I don’t know who’s going to use this feature.
• Bookmarking and BD-Live (BD-Live is available on profile 2 and above) -- BD-Live was not live at press time. I imagine you’ll be taken to Universal’s homepage.
Universal packs the disc in a usual ‘Elite’ Blu-ray case with an outside sleeve. Design is classy and less confused as Universal’s HD DVD discs were.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" isn’t the Apatow Gangs’ funniest film, but it has some truly sincere, great characters and a fantastically funny age-old breakup story that’s sure to get even better with age. The Blu-ray disc boasts hours of awesome bonus footage, but at the cost of the quality of the actual film. I’m honestly torn about recommending this disc. It’s really, truly one of the worst high-def A/V presentations I’ve seen. Still, the movie is rock solid, making this a must-own film despite the quality of the transfer. Just be aware that’s it’s not going to entice anyone to the format.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: A-
Recommendation: Worth owning despite the shoddy A/V presentation.
On DVD and Blu-ray disc: September 30, 2008.
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----R. L. Shaffer