Release Date: September 30, 2008
Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand
Produced by Judd Apatow and Shauna Robertson
Written by Jason Segel
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a bit of a rambling shaggy dog story of a comedy. When it’s funny, it’s truly hilarious. And there are some inspired sequences – especially a puppet musical performance near the end. But more often than not, the film simply drags along to its nearly 2 hour length, and scenes that are intended to be awkwardly funny simply wind up being awkward and uncomfortable. The simple story concerns a TV music composer (Jason Segel) who gets dumped by his actress girlfriend (Kristen Bell) and then goes through an awful time of trying to get over her. After a brief period at home, he decides to take a vacation in Hawaii only to run into her with her new boyfriend at his hotel! Several members of the Apatow stock company make appearances here, including Jonah Hill, Bill Hader and Paul Rudd, as Segel works his way around the hotel and Hawaii in general. There’s some beautiful images of Hawaii here, and some really funny moments, but I have to admit that the film simply didn’t appeal to me as much as earlier efforts by this group.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall has been released in multiple forms simultaneously. There are two standard definition widescreen editions, one standard definition full screen edition, and one Blu-ray edition. The edition under review here is the 3-Disc Collector’s Edition, which includes both the R-Rated theatrical release and an Unrated cut on the same disc, a second disc loaded with special features, and a third disc containing a digital copy of the film. As with Knocked Up last year, the two primary discs are packed to overflowing with extra footage, featurettes and videos. There’s a lot to go through here – enough to keep anyone busy for a few days or so.
I also note that the Unrated cut is about six minutes longer than the theatrical release, with the only major change being a new yoga scene with Kirsten Wiig nearly stealing the movie outright. There are also other little pieces added in here and there – but the yoga scene is the biggest portion.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is presented in a bright anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that gives a great view of the Hawaiian locations used for the film. There’s a lot of color on display here – particularly in one breathtaking sequence where Segel goes for a hike with Mila Kunis along a cliffside – the view of the area and the water is memorable. Flesh tones are accurate and brighter colors do well. The darker colors blend a bit into the blacks (an early nightclub scene finds Segel’s jacket falling into the background).
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in English, French and Spanish. The mix is fine, with the overwhelming majority of the sound coming from the front and center channels. There is a little use of the surrounds for music and some effects, but it’s mostly a frontal mix.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 4.5/5 ½
There is a treasure trove of special features available here, so we’ll take them in order. All but one (the Cinemax featurette) are in anamorphic widescreen.
On Disc 1:
Feature Commentary with Director Nick Stoller, Exec Producer Rodney Rothman, Producer Shauna Robertson, Writer/Star Jason Segel with Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand and on a feed from New York, Jack McBrayer - This is a scene-specific group commentary with all the above names participating. McBrayer is apparently participating long distance via satellite connection. As they admit right off the bat, this is a very chatty commentary, with a lot of mutual laughter and jokes going back and forth throughout. Throughout, Jason Segel discusses the real origins of the movie and the characters, identifying which scenes were real or partly real, and which ones were invented for the film. The full version of the commentary is available on the unrated version, but the theatrical version has an abbreviated version, re-edited to fit in with the slightly shorter film. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French for the commentary track, but to activate them, you must select the commentary track and then go into the language menu and ask for the subtitles. Just pushing the “subtitle” button on the remote unfortunately does not work. (By the same token, just pushing the “audio” button doesn’t allow the viewer to switch between audio streams – you have to go into the menu screens to do this.)
Deleted/Extended Scenes– (8:35 total) – A few deleted scenes are included here that did not make the Unrated cut. One is a further explanation of how Segel gets his first girl into bed after the breakup, two more are scenes between Bell and Russell Brand’s self-obsessed Aldous Snow that establish early on what may go south in their relationship. A pair of additional scenes for the end of the film are also included, one of which serves as an alternate conclusion to the Segel/Bell story that would have seen the film end in a more traditional fashion that what was chosen. The scenes here can be viewed individually or with a “Play All” option.
Line-o-Rama - (7:50) – As usual for Apatow productions, we get a series of alternate line readings and jokes for various scenes throughout the film. Some of them, particularly Jonah Hill’s contributions, are pretty funny. Some are just additional ad-libs that only demonstrate how many choices were available in the editing room.
Gag Reel - (5:46) - This is the usual collection of blown lines and staged gags. Mostly what we have is a series of takes that end in the cast breaking up. In three different cases, takes are disrupted by bugs flying into the faces or personal spaces of the cast.
We’ve Got To Do Something Music Video - (3:48) – Here we have the complete video for the Aldous Snow song seen in parts early in the film. It’s appropriately obnoxious, with references to multiple classic videos including Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. (No subtitles are available for this video)
Dracula’s Lament (4/7/07 Table Read Performance) – (3:17) – This is an excerpt from the show’s table read where Jason Segel plays his signature song for the puppet musical, complete with mock-Transylvanian accent. This is actually a lot of fun, both for the completely over the top performance, and for the giggly onscreen reactions by Bell and Kunis.
”A Taste for Love” (6:19) – This featurette focuses on the making of the puppet musical, complete with puppeteers from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. It’s pretty interesting material, mostly interview footage with the principals intercut with some backstage video of the puppet work.
Raw Footage – Video Feed (7:15) – This is a split screen feature of a video chat scene between Segel and Bill Hader. As an uninterrupted bit, this is fun material as we can see the actors breaking up repeatedly over the smallest of mistakes.
Red Band Trailer – (2:56) - A more explicit version of the film’s trailer is presented here, including some nudity by Segel.
I should note that the menu screen for the bonus features includes complete audio for the Aldous Snow song “Inside of You”. The Deleted/Extended Scenes menu contains the full rap for the “Animal Instinct” promo seen late in the film.
Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. As stated above, the commentary track is also subtitled in all three languages. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. When the first disc is initially started, the viewer is presented with an optional series of previews including The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior, Leatherheads, a Blu-ray preview, a red-band trailer for Burn After Reading, along with a teaser trailer for The Incredible Hulk featuring the appearance of Robert Downey, Jr.
Onward to Disc 2:
Right off the bat, the opening menu includes the complete audio for Segel’s “Dracula’s Lament” for the viewer’s further enjoyment. And the Bonus Features menu holds the complete “We’ve Got To Do Something” audio. Also, the subtitles on the second disc are accessible both via the menu and via the “subtitle” button on your remote.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (10:57 total) – Another batch of deleted scenes are gathered here. The yoga sequence is given an explosive finale, followed by a sequence where Bell has a memorably bad experience learning horseback riding with an uncooperative horse that goes off course. There’s another pair of scenes showing the growing problems in Bell’s relationship with Brand, and a different pass at the film’s final scene between Segel and Bell.
Dracula’s Lament Mixed Version – (2:21 total) – Here’s a single uninterrupted take of Segel playing his “Dracula’s Lament” in various styles for a clearly exasperated Bell. My favourite here has to be the Tom Waits approach.
Puppet Break-up – (2:31) – This is a part of the puppet musical edited from the film, in which the puppets re-enact the opening breakup scene of the film. This is almost as awkward as the scene on which it is based.
Sex-o-Rama (2:44) – Here we have material edited from the early “Sex Tear”, consisting of Segel in bed with a bunch of different women and embarrassing himself in a variety of ways. The material here is just more of this stuff, including a few funny lines and a lot of awkwardness.
Drunk-o-Rama (2:31) – This is additional cuts of a sequence where Segel sits at the hotel bar and orders every drink imaginable. And then gets progressively drunker and drunker.
Russell Brand: Aldous Snow (5:57) – This brief featurette covers the casting of Russell Brand as Bell’s new boyfriend. Interview footage is intercut with Brand’s audition video, which was strong enough to get the producers to rewrite the role from an older writer to a younger rock star.
The Letter ‘U’ With Aldous Snow (3:54) – This is an edited sequence clearly meant to be inset on a TV at some point during the film. It shows Aldous Snow hosting a “Sesame Street” styled kids’ program and generally having a pretty awful time of it.
Crime Scene (2:22 and 1:54) – Here we have additional material shot for the inset CSI-type TV series with Bell and William Baldwin. There’s also a “Line-o-Rama” with William Baldwin doing multiple alternate one-liners for the TV show.
Sarah’s New Show - Alts (2:17) – Here we get multiple alternate options for Sarah Marshall’s new crime series with Jason Bateman. They all involve the exact same scene as the one used in the film, only with different outcomes. Some of them are so bad, they might wind up on a network schedule next fall...
Raw Footage – Aldous & Peter in Hotel Lobby (9:10) – Here we have a single uninterrupted take of a late scene between Segel and Brand talking. Much of this appears to be an extended structured improvisation, which leads to some funny stuff here and there, and some moments of the guys just trying to come up with new material to keep going. As it happens, they usually find a fun direction to go, and it’s a showcase for Brand’s irreverence.
Video Diaries (35:01 total) – This is a series of video diaries as per usual with Apatow productions, showing the production company working its way through the shoot in Hawaii with the occasional overlaid script to explain items that were not in the final film. The diaries conclude with video shot after wrap on the final day, which was spent filming the “Sex Tear”.
Auditions (15:35 total) – This is a collection of the audition videos for Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Jack McBrayer and Maria Thayer. Brand’s easily stands out in the midst and makes clear why the producers were willing to rewrite his part to suit him.
Cinemax Final Cut: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (16:27, Non-Anamorphic) – This is the one non-anamorphic special feature on either disc. It’s a group interview conducted for Cinemax’s “Final Cut” show, with the interviews intercut with footage from the film.
And for the 3rd Disc, there is a Digital Copy of the Movie you can download to your computer to be played on iTunes or Windows Media Player.
IN THE END...
Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a more difficult film to enjoy than other Apatow films like Knocked Up but it still has some really funny material to recommend it. This DVD set at least provides enough material to keep fans of the film occupied for some time. And fans of Apatow productions will want to pick this up for sure. For casual viewers, I suggest renting first.
October 10, 2008.