Dennis suggests Forgetting Sarah Marshall (in Comedy). Judd-freaking-Apatow. While he didn’t direct this one, he produced it, his fingerprints are all over the casting (Apatow alums Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Carla Gallo, and writer/star Jason Segel all appear), and the signature ‘arrested adolescent males wising up’ motif is all Apatow, and, like The 40 Year OId Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, the movie mines soulful, comic gold out of a seemingly-standard setup. Segel (so great in
Apatow’s shows ‘Freaks and Geeks’ and ‘Undeclared’) plays Peter, a shlumphy, amiable guy who’s been happily in a relationship with chipper, blonde TV star Sarah Marshall (‘Veronica Mars’’s Kristen Bell) while writing the ominous, monotonous mood music for her ‘CSI’-like show (the geniusly titled ‘Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime’), when, out of the blue (and nakedly out of the shower) she dumps him for a blissed-out British rocker (the utterly-hilarious Russell Brand). Shattered and boozy, Peter decides to escape to the Hawaiian resort they’d always planned on going to, only to find…dum, dum, dummmm…that Sarah and her new beau are there already and happily humping like sea otters. Like I said, it’s a standard, sitcommy setup, but the script, by Segel, is surprisingly nimble, unpredictable, and refreshingly un-stupid every step of the way (only a third-act breakup scene throws off the comic balance by being too mean). I really appreciate the way that Segel’s Peter is allowed to be sort of unlikeable, and the traditional villains of the piece (the ex-girlfriend, the new boyfriend) are allowed to be understandable and likable as well. Big laughs (Brand is revelatory, Rudd, Hill, and ‘30 Rock’’s Jack McBrayer are typically-money), some heart, and some nicely-modulated performances from Segel , Bell, and Mila Kunis as the impossibly-lovely and sane hotel concierge who becomes a welcome distraction for Peter’s beery wallowing make this yet another indispensable comedy machine from the Apatow laugh factory. (Oh, and big ups for Peter’s hilariously muppetty Dracula musical, where Segal gets to show off his musical chops as well- Segal has parlayed it into a gig writing the next actual Muppet movie).