Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

I once knew a guy who proposed to his girlfriend by buying a billboard that she’d see on her way to work. And I’ve heard stories of romantics who hired airplanes to put it in skywriting. And others who had it flashed on the electronic scoreboard at a big game.

So I was a complete sucker when I was in Los Angeles visiting a photographer friend. As he hustled me around the city – from cigar store to kosher deli to photo studios – I noticed a large white billboard with this message:

“I’m so over you, Sarah Marshall.”

Hm. Some jerk dumped by his girlfriend.

A few blocks later I spot a billboard that said, “My Mother Always Hated You, Sarah Marshall.”

What a sore loser.

A few streets onward, I spotted another billboard. This one announced:

“You Do Look Fat in Those Jeans, Sarah Marshall.”

Ha! What a creative way to deal with a break up. Public embarrassment seems a better revenge than dumping all your girlfriend’s clothes into the street or asking for your ring back.

Next I saw the message: “You suck, Sarah Marshall.”

Wow! I was now curious about this gal who could spark such protestations of affections. And what about the ex-boyfriend who would go to such excessive lengths to announce that he didn’t care. (Yeah, right.)

Little did I know until I started to see the TV ads that Sarah Marshall was a fictional girlfriend in a same-title movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” This breakup comedy is being reprised at Tropic Cinema.

Man, did I feel like a schmuck back then – getting so wrapped up in a love triangle that existed only in the mind of comedy writer Jason Segal.

Ah, the power of outdoor advertising. And clever Tinseltown promotional flacks.

So I had to see how it turned out for Peter (played by writer Jason Segal himself) and his former girlfriend Sarah Marshall (pretty Kristen Bell). Seems his TV star girlfriend has dumped him for a rocker hunk (Russell Brand). So poor dejected Peter takes a Hawaiian vacation to get over Sarah, only to discover that she and his Grade-A replacement are booked at the very same resort.

How do you look at ease when confronted by your ex and her new beau? Not easily, as the movie’s silly plot details: awkward encounters, embarrassments, and mix-ups being the plot elements.

Yes, you’ve seen writer-actor Jason Segal plenty of times before. He appeared as the character Marshall in some 59 episodes of the popular TV sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” However, that Marshall is no relation to the unforgettable Sara Marshall of this movie – unless you count the homage of Segal’s repeating the name in his screenplay.

The comedy is populated with television actors. In addition to Jason Segal, you will find a nice turn by Mila Kunis (“That 70s Show)” and Kristen Bell (“Veronica Mars,” “Heroes,” and “Gossip Girl”). Even Russell Brand appeared in an old TV series called “Mud.”

As one online blogger observes they “take to movies like naturals.”

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” has been described as “the ultimate disaster movie.” Did Segal base his dumped character on real-life experience? “A little bit,” he grins. “It’s sort of an amalgam of a lot of interesting and failed relationships that I’ve had. I’ve found pain to be a very interesting topic. It was really fun to write this.”

He adds, “Somehow, Universal gave us millions of dollars to make this film and to exorcise my demons from bad relationships.”

Although directed by first-timer Nicholas Stoller, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” was produced by Judd Apatow and Shauna Robertson, the same folks who gave us “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” and “Superbad” – so you can expect this to be funny.

A smitten blogger wrote: “Ok, so you probably have all seen these terribly offensive billboards around town, which totally defame our beloved Sarah Marshall. Please don’t pay them any attention, they are the workings of her heart broken ex-boyfriend Peter Bretter, who frankly has to move on.

“Well guess what … to counter Peter, several of her fans and I have raised enough money to buy our own billboards in support of Sarah.”

They include:

“Sarah Marshall is a size 2”

“Sarah Marshall is the prettiest girl on earth”

“Sarah Marshall is the next Meg Ryan.”

Still, those original promotional billboards caused some concern with real-life Sarah Marshalls.

“I got a lot of e-mails and phone calls asking if my boyfriend and I were OK,” reports a same-named art student in Fort Worth, Texas.

“They’re everywhere, and they’re so annoying,” said another Sarah Marshall whose friends thought she was the target of a hate campaign.

In fact, Facebook lists 276 Sarah Marshals.

Yet those movie flacks knew what they were doing. As one Sarah Marshall said about the movie, “I’ll have to see it now.”

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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