Sara Vilkomerson's Guide to This Week's Movies: How Now, Apatow?

We could go into an oh-so-increasingly-familiar rant about the fact that Prom Night—a movie whose tag line is “It’s midnight. Everyone’s ready to go home … but someone has other plans”—was the most popular amongst audiences last weekend (lesson learned: people cannot resist the horror flicks) … but what’s the point? We’ll skip it. Besides, we’ve got more interesting news! We know what’s going to take the top spot this weekend: Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

This movie (directed by Nicholas Stoller) is yet another from the unofficial Judd Apatow Company Players: Jason Segel, that tall drink of water from Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared and Knocked Up, is the captain of this one, writing the screenplay and starring as Peter Bretter. At the start of the film, Peter, completely in the nude, gets dumped—in a scene destined for canonization—by longtime girlfriend, TV star Sarah Marshall (played with blue-eyed bitchy perfection by Kristin Bell). As he goes deeper into the bell jar (the crying, the obsessing, the anger—why is it funnier when it’s a man in pain?), he’s advised by his stepbrother/best friend (played by SNL player and Apatow cohort, Bill Hader) to take a trip and get away from all things Sarah Marshall. Peter jets to Hawaii and ends up running smack into his ex and her new beau, bad-boy rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand, who steals every scene he’s in). Mila Kunis plays a doe-eyed concierge, and from Mr. Segel and Ms. Kunis’ first exchange, it’s pretty easy to see the romantic comedy boy-meets-girl-loses-girl-discovers-things-about-himself-finds-girl train coming down the track. However, there are still some goofy surprises along the way (like, Dracula: the puppet musical …). Mr. Segel is a deeply sympathetic and likable leading man, and his script has more then a couple laugh-out-loud moments; it’s not everyone who can make good jokes about both Flavor of Love and Sex and the City.

There’s been a backlash against Judd Apatow building for a while now; it starting during last summer’s Knocked Up and Superbad hype and kicked into full gear around the releases of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Drillbit Taylor, both of which flopped. But is it right to turn on Team Apatow? One could make the argument that as a producer he’s spreading himself a bit thin—he has another two projects (including August’s Pineapple Express, written by Seth Rogen) coming out this year. And we’re getting a little tired of seeing the same faces pop up over and over again (Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd are cute, charming and totally unsurprising here). Still, Mr. Apatow certainly produces a very funny movie for every couple of duds, and this is one of them. Not quite sold? Forgetting Sarah Marshall is worth it for the Stephen Baldwin and Jason Bateman cameos alone. Trust us.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall opens Friday at Clearview Cinema at First and 62nd.

Sara Vilkomerson's Guide to This Week's Movies: How Now, Apatow?