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Originally published Friday, April 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

Exposure scenes make "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" hard to forget

Avert your eyes, sensitive readers: I'm going to have to go there. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," the latest comedy from the Judd Apatow factory...

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall," with Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand. Directed by Nicholas Stoller, from a screenplay by Segel. 114 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, language and some graphic nudity. Several theaters.

Avert your eyes, sensitive readers: I'm going to have to go there. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," the latest comedy from the Judd Apatow factory (the "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" filmmaker produced this one) has an uncredited co-star who got by far the biggest laughs at a preview screening, despite having no lines.

It is the male appendage of star Jason Segel, and it appears in several scenes of the film, peeking into the frame like a shy ingénue. In its understated way, it steals focus from everything else in the scene, and director Nicholas Stoller seems to depend on it for reliable laughs, as he might of a veteran comedian popping in for a quick set. It may well be in negotiations for its own agent as I write.

And is it funny? Well, not that funny — nudity isn't a substitute for wit, particularly when it happens over and over, and I'm picturing with horror a succession of future movies in which actors just stand around pantsless, with no screenplay at all. (Wait; I think there are already movies around like that. Never mind.) It's not that "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is bad; it's got some genuinely funny moments and performances of real charm, though it suffers from the usual Apatow problem of being about 30 minutes longer than it needs to be. The screenplay, written by Segel, feels lazy; perhaps it was rushed into production too quickly, riding the wave of Apatow success.

Peter (Segel) is a composer and all-around regular guy (his idea of a good time is to sit around his apartment when his girlfriend is away and eat a giant bowl of Froot Loops) whose life is shattered when his TV-star girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell) dumps him for British rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). He mopes around, sobbing and watching "Project Runway," until it occurs to him to take an impulsive trip to Oahu. And who does he meet there? Sarah and Aldous, not to mention a pretty hotel clerk named Rachel (Mila Kunis) and some other friendly employees who offer advice, of varying quality, on how to get over his lost love.

Brand's preening Aldous, a biblical-looking fellow who speaks as if he's got an invisible chorus line of groupies eagerly awaiting every utterance, is a kick; Kunis has a sly sweetness; and Segel, particularly when his character puts his pants back on and pursues his dream of a puppet musical version of "Dracula," is likably funny.

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" should please audiences eager for silly summer comedy (particularly, the Hawaiian sunshine should delight those currently enduring a gray Seattle spring). Next time, though, Segel might want to stay zipped: Consider what overexposure's done for Matthew McConaughey's chest.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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