So perhaps the rumors of Judd Apatow's demise were greatly exaggerated.
Following the disappointing performance of "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" and the flop that was "Drillbit Taylor," Apatow is back in classic form with his latest production.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is yet another crowd-pleasing comedy like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad" that will make you laugh and squirm the whole way through - usually at the same time. It has just the right balance of the salty and the sweet. It also signals an introduction of sorts to a couple of engaging talents.
Jason Segel, co-star of Apatow's "Knocked Up" and "Freaks and Geeks" and the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," settles comfortably into his first screenplay and first leading role. Drawing on his own experiences, Segel plays a big, lovable puppy dog of a guy who gets dumped when he's most vulnerable by his TV-star girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). His unabashed full-frontal nudity in this scene has been the stuff of legend for weeks before the film's opening; you do have to give him credit for showing such, um, confidence.
And then there's Russell Brand, a British standup comic who will probably be new to American audiences, but not for long. He runs away with this movie - tough to do, since it's populated with big personalities - as a preening rock star who is less vapid and more verbal than he initially appears. Segel has given Brand most of the movie's wittiest lines and since improvisation rules on an Apatow set, Brand and the rest of the cast were free to bounce off each other with reckless abandon.
Segel stars as Peter Bretter, a genial but mostly unmotivated musician. He's the composer for the TV series "Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime," a dead-on take off on "CSI" (with a brilliant rip on David Caruso). Sarah, the show's glamorous star, has been Peter's girlfriend for the past six years, which has meant long nights of holding her purse at premieres while she answers reporters' questions on the red carpet.
Still, he's blinded by her fame and beauty, and remains hopelessly in love with her even after she shows up at his apartment and announces that she's leaving him for another man.
At the urging of his brother Brian (Bill Hader of "Saturday Night Live"), Peter jets off to Hawaii to get over Sarah, but instead ends up at the same resort where she just happens to be vacationing with her new boyfriend, Brand's lanky, leather-clad Lothario, Aldous Snow. Of all the hotels on all the islands in all the world, he walks into hers - a bit of a contrivance, sure, but it sets up some hilariously painful situations.Thankfully there's Rachel (Mila Kunis), the resort's friendly front-desk clerk, who helps Peter take his mind off his wrecked love life.
The absurdity of love and heartache mixed with clever touches and a twisted sense of humor for the hero provide surprising touches to his characters - such as a Dracula puppet musical.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall," a Universal Pictures release, is rated R for language and some graphic nudity. Running time: 111 minutes. Our score: Three stars out of four.