Writer and star Jason Segel concocted this romantic comedy from an experience in his own life. It is a moment recreated right at the top of the film when TV and frustrated puppet theatre composer Peter Bretter (Segel) stands naked physically and emotionally as his TV-series star girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) dumps him for another guy. Not being able to deal with the sudden rejection and unable to perform properly at his job he decides to take the Hawaiian vacation he and his now-ex never got around to. Unfortunately she coincidentally has the same idea and with her English rocker new boyfriend (Russell Brand) in tow and winds up in the exact same resort with poor pitiful Peter. In a tactic designed to prove Sarah made a huge mistake he manages to hook up with the hotel’s pretty and sympathetic concierge (Mila Kunis)--signing up for “activities” she is unlikely to suggest to any other guest. With the Hawaiian paradise as the perfect backdrop the film turns into a classic battle of the sexes as Peter attempts to put the pieces of his shattered heart back together. One of the original regulars of producer Judd Apatow’s short-lived NBC series Freeks and Geeks and now co-star of How I Met Your Mother Jason Segel smartly breaks out of the supporting TV mode and proves his worth as a fine comic movie lead in his sharply observed script inspired by an incident that happened in his own life. Sure to be much discussed and dissected the hilarious opening scenes in which he boldly goes for laughs displaying his full frontal manhood signals him as a screen actor unafraid to let it all hang out there. That’s just perfect for a character who pretty much wears his vulnerability on his sleeve (when he has one on). As a screenwriter he has also given his co-stars choice roles to run with as well. Bell as the vapid TV actress takes what could have been a one-dimensional role and shapes her Sarah Marshall into a believable human being who finally hits a wall in her longtime relationship. Kunis (TV's That '70s Show) is an enormously appealing and warm screen presence and Brand as the loopy rocker steals every scene he’s in with one of the year’s most indelible comic creations. As usual some of Apatow’s stable of regulars turn up here as well with standout bits from Knocked Up and 40 Year-Old Virgin’s Paul Rudd as a loony surf instructor and Superbad’s Jonah Hill as the fanboy restaurant host. Debuting feature director Nicholas Stoller got some early experience on Apatow’s underappreciated series Undeclared and does a nice job here bringing Segel’s creation to the screen. A mark of a good director is good performances and there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. Not too shabby for a first timer. His achievement however is clearly overwhelmed by the imposing shadow of producer Apatow and his star/writer. It’s their show but Stoller goes light on stylistic touches and doesn’t screw it up seamlessly letting the actors the terrific script and the scenery do all the heavy lifting making this Sarah Marshall hard to forget indeed.
It's not like Andy Stitzer (Carrell) hasn't attempted to lose his virginity. It just never worked out so he stopped trying. It hasn't really bothered him though. He's got a cushy job stamping invoices at an electronics superstore rides a bike has a nice apartment with a proud collection of action figures and comic books--and above all has an upbeat attitude. You know a regular guy except for that one itty-bitty thing. But that's all about to change. Once his co-workers--lovelorn David (Paul Rudd) womanizer Jay (Romany Malco) and horny Cal (Seth Rogan)--get wind of Andy's predicament they take it upon themselves to get the man laid. But nothing seems to work--until that is Andy meets Trish (Catherine Keener) a 40-year-old mother of three and sparks fly. Although Andy and Trish decide to take things very very slowly with a mutual no-sex policy (at least for awhile) the deed may finally be at hand. Or not depending on whether Andy can get over his hang-up with women.
Carrell's star is definitely on the rise--and with just cause. Getting his first real break on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart the Second City alum has basically been stealing scenes from bigger comic stars--such as Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty and Will Ferrell in Anchorman--ever since. Now it's Carrell's turn to take the lead and oddly enough he chooses to play a big old dork. Imagine that. But honestly if anyone can play a sweet lovable if slightly peculiar 40-year-old virgin it's Carrell; he's just got one of those faces. The other great thing about Carrell is how well he plays with others. He's really not at all a showboat and is definitely at home in an ensemble situation especially when the ensemble is just as hilarious as he is. The 40 Year-Old Virgin's eclectic supporting cast holds true to this theory. Rudd has moved away from that pretty-boy persona he perfected in his earlier movies (The Object of My Affection Clueless) and is delightfully twisted as the self-destructive David. Rogan (Donnie Darko) too does a nice spin on Cal's frat-boy qualities. Even Keener gets to hang with the guys and mix in her own eccentricities. Only Malco (Showtime's' Weeds) as the brash Jay seems a little out of place but he holds his own when he has to. As does the string of wacko women Andy is paired up with including Leslie Mann as one of Andy's very drunk prospects and Elizabeth Banks as one who can get her freak on. Which of course scares Andy to death.
Director-writer-producer Judd Apatow creator of the stellar but short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks as well as the producer of several hit comedies such as Anchorman just further enhances the camaraderie on the Virgin set. It really seems like a big boys' club. Apatow and Carrell go way back; Rudd and Carrell worked together on Anchorman; and Rogan starred in Apatow's Freaks and Geeks. In other words these guys know each other pretty well. Maybe that's what keeps us interested while Virgin's sketchy plot plays out. Sure we've seen guy flicks before plenty of them in fact. But not from this particular group. The film is at its best when they are sitting around rifting off a particular subject or razzing each other. Rudd and Rogan's "You know how I know you're gay" one-upmanship is hilarious. But Virgin starts getting a little long in the tooth waiting for our hero to get to pleasure town. It's like we are getting a bird's-eye view on what these boys think about sex--and if truth be told Andy is the one who comes out looking the most normal after all is said and done.