by ED SYMKUS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & f just one lesson is to be learned in this newest offering from the Judd Apatow school of contemporary comedy, it's that dating and working together just don't mix. Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) is the co-star (with Billy Baldwin!) of one of those curiously popular CSI-like TV shows, and Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) composes the scores for the show. They've been together for five and a half years and they make, as the celebrity press suggests, an "adorable couple."

So when, only minutes into the film, Sarah announces to Peter that she's breaking up with him -- while he's standing there, stark naked, as seems to happen quite often in Apatow-produced films -- he can only make sad puppy eyes as she walks out of his life.

Shattered, Peter doesn't know what to do with himself. Things go wrong at work; since Sarah's a TV star, he sees her face everywhere; his shrink (Steve Landesberg) can only suggest that he go out and have lots of sex.

Segel (currently playing Marshall on How I Met Your Mother but best known as Nick on Freaks and Geeks) is a big, lumbering guy, and he makes for one terrific sad sack. Playing the part to the hilt, he goes for and gets the audience's laughter and sympathy.

A pal recommends that he just get away from it all, go on a Hawaiian vacation and forget about Sarah. Which he does, only to find -- can you say "major coincidence?" -- Sarah and her new boyfriend, the self-centered and kinda stupid Brit rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), are registered at the same hotel.

What's an insecure loser like Peter to do? First he goes up to his room and starts sobbing loudly. It's not long before everyone at the hotel -- including Rachel (Mila Kunis) behind the reception desk -- knows Peter's story. He starts receiving unsolicited advice, full of sexual innuendo, from total strangers and the oddballs who work at the hotel.

Of the Apatow regulars, there's Paul Rudd playing an absurdly laidback surfer dude, and Jonah Hill as a scatterbrained waiter who's more of a hindrance than a help.

Peter takes some of the advice: He decides to ask Rachel out. But on a first date, you've got to wonder if it's a good idea for him to bring up his plans to write a rock opera about Dracula. Featuring puppets.

Since Apatow has directed Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin and produced Walk Hard, Superbad, and Talladega Nights, it won't come as a surprise that this movie features jokes about genital herpes or that, near the end, there's yet another scene of Peter buck naked. Yep, full-frontal again.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a raucous, raunchy and somehow very sweet film that keeps veering between dizzying happiness and lovelorn sadness. Peter regularly flashes back to his earlier days with Sarah -- but with viewers learning more and more about her, it's hard to tell whether those times were better or bitter. Sarah Marshall is a mixed-up, shook-up look at relationships and how easy it is for them to go bad, but also what a snap it can be to jump up and get into another one.

Directed by first-timer Nicholas Stoller (Apatow likes to try out new guys), the film loosely follows the template of guy meets girl/guy loses girl/guy gets girl without ever feeling formulaic. The best aspect of the movie -- aside from Kunis' perky performance -- is that you can guess the plot's direction all you want, but you likely won't get it. And the best part of all? Peter wasn't kidding about his opera.

Palouse Cult Film Revival: Little Shop of Horrors @ The Kenworthy

Wed., Feb. 8, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
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