Culture > Movies

Forget Sarah Marshall

Movies | Apatow film doesn't get beyond his usual crudeness

Issue: "Food fight," May 3, 2008

Two years ago, a relatively unknown writer/director/producer arrived on the filmmaking scene and resuscitated a dying genre-the R-rated comedy.

Most of Judd Apatow's films (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, and Knocked Up) contain crude, sexual humor; extended nudity; and some of the most obscene dialogue ever put on paper. They are all populated by boy-men who immerse themselves in alcohol, television, and the comic-book culture. And they all performed incredibly well at the box office.

Given the state of arrested development that many 20- and 30-something men seem to be in today, it shouldn't surprise anyone that they relate to Apatow's work. What is surprising is that the moral themes in his biggest blockbusters seem to resonate with them as well. While most of The 40-Year-Old Virgin is spent making fun of Steve Carrell's titular character, in the end he decides sex will be more meaningful if he saves it for marriage. In between the swearing, nudity, and pot-smoking, Knocked Up eloquently argues for the value of life in the womb. This should not be taken as a recommendation for these movies, but that such traditional sentiments are popping up in such unlikely vehicles is worth noting.

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Unfortunately Apatow's latest project, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, maintains his first few trademarks but doesn't bother with the last. It would be dishonest to say that the story about a slacker (Jason Segel) who flees to Hawaii after getting dumped by his girlfriend (Kristin Bell) only to find she's staying at the same resort with her new love doesn't generate a few laughs. But anyone who isn't numb to every kind of offensive content will cringe at what comes between them.

The best that can be said for Sarah Marshall is that Apatow seems to recognize that sex means something-that it's impossible to separate ourselves emotionally, spiritually, and morally from the physical act. Hardly a groundbreaking revelation, but one that is apparently novel for Apatow's audience.

Megan Basham
Megan Basham

Megan, a regular correspondent for WORLD News Group, is a writer and film critic living in Charlotte, N.C. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.


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