The wonderful short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks may have engendered in me an undue subconscious generosity toward the future films of show producer Judd Apatow as well as the entirety of its then-young-and-unknown cast, because I have literally no idea what critics of Apatow's movies are talking about when they complain about his movies' indulgently improvisational style or their focus on aimless young men dealing with the pitfalls of love, career motivation and the sometimes paralyzing low-yield affirmations of pop cultural saturation and high-five-deep male-bonding. These are not deficits but the very reasons Apatow's movies are so relevant and full of life.
I count a handful of Apatow-factory films as among the most-inspired comedies of the 2000s — Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Step Brothers — for their attention to humor that springs from idiosyncratic characters (and bizarrely heart-warming relationships) created from a well of genuine and often mocking understanding of the modern male. It may not be fashionable to acknowledge that these types of characters deserve further study, or that their peculiar foibles are worthy of empathy, or that the Apatow universe's absurd (and absurdly cogent) exaggerations of the male psyche are the stuff of hilarity rather than contempt, but he and many of the filmmakers he fosters have an acute sense for capturing the fragility behind wayward expressions of testosterone.
Even though it is not as adventurous as some of its peers, the Apatow-produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall is among my favorites due to the fingerprints of star and co-writer Jason Segel, who fills this randy rumination on heartbreak with unique vulnerability and personality — Segel's puppetry-based Dracula musical must be one of the greatest unproduced stage shows of all-time. The rest of the cast is razor-sharp, from Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell as his love interests, to Russell Brand, Jack McBrayer, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Da'Vone McDonald and Bill Hader as the unusual assortment of comic characters in his orbit.
Director Nicholas Stoller isn't an artist, but in most of his films, as he does here, he keeps everything bright and human-centered, allowing his cast to contribute and shine. Critics who write-off Forgetting Sarah Marshall as yet another bottom-feeding sex comedy or indiscriminately lump it in with slapstick-oriented "bro-comedies" like The Hangover series, are missing out on the gentle inspiration that defines the Apatow brand in juxtaposition with its bawdy exterior.