The Judd Apatow machine continues to roll with his latest romantic comedy, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Apatow, the man behind “Knocked Up,” “Superbad” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” serves only as a producer for “Marshall,” but he has put his stamp on a film that has a lot of striking similarities to those other films - including the ability to make an audience laugh at will.

Jason Segal stars as Peter, a musician responsible for the music of a popular TV series that happens to star his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell).

The romance comes to an abrupt end, much to Peter’s surprise, leaving him devastated and unsure how to recover.

He decides to take a Hawaiian vacation to deal with the break-up, but soon discovers that Sarah is staying at the same resort with her new boyfriend, a British pop singer named Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).

Segal also wrote the screenplay, which is full of smart, funny dialogue. And the cast is more than capable of getting the most out of the script.

Segal plays the lovable loser to perfection, while Bell is good as the ex and Mila Kunis is outstanding as an employee at the resort who becomes romantically involved with Peter.

There is some nice bit work too from Bill Hader, and Apatow regulars Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd.

But the real discovery in “Marshall” is Brand, who steals every scene he is in as the flaky and eccentric Snow.

I’ll admit the film is probably a little too long, with several random scenes that don’t really seem to bring much to the plot. But the fact is most of those scenes are 100 times funnier than most of the comedies released in 2008, so it is easy to overlook the film’s flaws.

Like “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” “Sarah Marshall” is a film that manages to balance raunch and sweetness just enough to make it a worthy date movie and a perfect candidate for “guys who like movies,” as well.

DVD dandy of the week

This week’s dandy is “The Savages” (B), a brutally honest look at a dysfunctional family that features outstanding performances from Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Linney and Hoffman play Wendy and Jon Savage, estranged siblings who have spent most of their lives trying to recover from childhood abuse from their father, Lenny (Philip Bosco).

When Lenny becomes ill and his girlfriend dies, Wendy and Jon are forced to care for their ailing father and come to terms with their own personal demons that Lenny helped create.

Linney and Hoffman are two of my favorite actors working today and neither disappoints. Linney’s painful performance earned an Oscar nomination (she was much more deserving than winner Marion Cotillard), while Hoffman’s performance put a cap on an amazing year that featured three great performances.

“The Savages” was written by Tamara Jenkins, who already has one dysfunctional family comedy under her belt with the underrated “Slums of Beverly Hills.” This film has a much darker tone but is just as effective, with the added bonus of watching two very talented actors at the top of their game.

“The Savages” is rated R for some sexuality and language and is now available on DVD.

— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton - who, it should be noted, is himself pretty good at playing the “lovable loser” - can be reached for comment by e-mailing mcompton@bgdailynews.com.

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