Jason Segel is on full display in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” the latest comedy from producer Judd Apatow, and as is always the case, it’s a mixture of the sweet and the obscene. Segel, who also starred in television’s late, lamented “Freaks and Geeks,” plays Peter, a lovelorn ex whose trip to Hawaii proves ill-fated when he runs into the girl he’s trying to escape from.
Dumped by Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), his TV-star girlfriend, Peter travels to a tropical resort in hopes of drowning his sorrows in booze and sunbaths, but he finds little in the way of comfort when he checks into the same hotel as his ex and her new boyfriend. Wherever he goes, she’s there, and despite his best efforts, he can’t seem to lose her.
It’s a nightmare situation, handled deftly by Segel, whose skills as a physical comedian are complemented by a sharp script and a talented cast. As Aldous Snow, the pompous rock star who’s won Sarah’s affections, Russell Brand is brilliantly oblivious, equally sure of his prowess as a sex god as he is of his dubious musical skills. Yet, he pulls off a neat trick: as the boyfriend everyone is supposed to hate, he remains oddly gregarious, likable even in his creepier moments.
For his part, Segel is fearless, willing to bare himself both physically and emotionally as the crushed ex who can’t seem to catch a break until he meets Rachel (Mila Kunis), the sympathetic hotel clerk willing to tolerate his baggage. Together, they forge a bond, even as Sarah does her best to pry her way back into Peter’s life.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is needlessly long, but it is very funny, even when the humor is cringe-inducing, as when Peter handles his breakup without a shred of clothing. For Apatow, whose movies have always mixed crassness with tendersentiment, it’s familiar territory. But for audiences weaned on comedies like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” that territory is an engaging place to be.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Starring: Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Heder
Written by Jason Segel
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Running time 1 hour, 52 minutes