Much—maybe too much—has been written about producer, writer, and director Judd Apatow, who, in a few short years, has gone from being an underappreciated TV producer to Hollywood's go-to comedy guy. Once, not so long ago, Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared were both canceled thanks to low ratings, while Apatow's meager spate of film projects—like 1996's The Cable Guy—was underwhelming at best. But then: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Knocked Up and Superbad and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story—all were Apatow productions, catapulting the guy to success. (There've been missteps, sure, but the worst you can say about stuff like Kicking & Screaming and Drillbit Taylor is that they're instantly forgettable.)
The latest Apatow-approved project—this time around, he's producing—is Forgetting Sarah Marshall, featuring his old Freaks and Geeks star, Jason Segel. (He was the kid who played drums and was in love with Lindsay!) As written and acted by Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall feels like it's been in the works for a while—a long-gestating project that's finally seeing the light of day thanks to Apatow's name. That could be a bad thing, but it isn't—even if the magical A-word were to be removed from Sarah Marshall's advertising material, the movie would still be pretty great.
Peter Bretter (Segel) has it made: He has an easy, well-paying job (he lazily composes ambient music for the hit TV show Crime Scene Investigation: Scene of the Crime) and for five and a half years, he's been happily dating Sarah (Veronica Mars' Kristen Bell), the super-hot, super-cute star of Crime Scene Investigation. But as soon as Sarah's career starts to take off, she ditches Peter—leaving the dude a sobbing, bewildered wreck. Doing his best to break out of his funk, Peter books a flight to Hawaii and gets ready to relax... only to discover that Sarah's at the same resort, along with her incredibly douchebaggy boyfriend (Russell Brand). Even when one of the locals, Rachel (Mila Kunis, rehabbing nicely from That '70s Show), starts making eyes at Peter, he's too miserable to notice—until the dude wakes up and starts doing what the title of the movie has been telling him to do all along.
There are a couple of too-easy plot threads throughout Sarah Marshall (I bet you'll never guess what Peter ends up doing with Jackie from That '70s Show!), but they never get in the way of the constant, clever, and sharp comedy. Even if Sarah Marshall leans too heavily on what's rapidly becoming an Apatow formula (loveable-but-goofy everyman hooks up, then grows up), there's still enough charm in the process for it to work. The loveable, understated Segel's funny throughout, but it's the supporting players who really keep this thing going: From Bell to Kunis to Brand, the cast here is fantastic, with even the smallest roles filled by the likes of Knocked Up's Paul Rudd, Superbad's Jonah Hill, and 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer. Between its killer one-liners ("When life gives you lemons, just say, 'Fuck the lemons!' and bail!") and likeable characters, Forgetting Sarah Marshall's a worthy addition to the Apatow canon. Yeah, sooner or later, we might get to a point where the Apatow schtick gets old. Luckily, we're not there yet.