Russell Brand isn’t the best thing about Forgetting Sarah Marshall*, but he is very good in it. And interestingly what is so good about Brand in thsi film is that he is so gosh darned nice. Which has made me think about the Brand brand over here if you will, and how he has turned from a likeable TV host into a very divisive celebrity in two years. And perhaps the secret of his success in Marshall (and lack of success in St Trinians and most of his other projects between this and Big Brothers Big Mouth) all boils down to the difference between what he is and what we want him to be.

Brand’s schtick is being the erudite dandy. The juxtaposition between his look, his language and the way he uses his language creates a comic persona. Which was absolutely perfect on a strange phone in show like Big Brothers Big Mouth, a show where people ring up about the minutiae of a pretty unimportant reality TV show and this conversation is spun out into half an hour. A DAY. Russell was our guide, sharp witted, quick, clever but not condescending. With enough material to make the show work even if the guests and the phone-ins were rubbish, but equally enough generosity of spirit to take unscripted and run with it. He did not want to condemn the housemates, their dimwitted supporters or the rent-a-gob celebrities, but he was happy to let them do it to themselves. That was the clever Russell Brand we all liked.

But that’s not the Russell Brand the newspapers wanted. They wanted the rampantly promiscuous ex-heroin addict. Which is fine because Brand is happy being that too. Because he has to hold his hand up and say “that is me”, so he may as well make a joke about it (he is a comedian). But that Brand became the Brand we got, day in day out, because he suddenly wasn’t on TV every day but in the newspapers. I’ve not read his autobiography, I understand its amusingly written, but he only wrote it because he was being biographied every day and there was a market for him. Which got to the point of Brand suddenly appearing to be one of those celebrities for celebrity sake, a professional chat-show guest. (The fact that he and Amy Winehouse’s seemed to have symbiotic barnets like Brian May and Anita Dobson didn’t help). St Trinians as a film certainly did not want him there as anything but the cartoon version of himself, it was stunt casting.

In Forgetting Sarah Marshall Brand does play a version of himself. But its a shy version, the version glimpsed at every now and then back on BBBM. You can tell he is comfortable in the role, and that the film-makers have allowed him a fair bit of space to improvise,a lot of the language is pure Brand, built into this surprisingly sympathetic character. But spending this relaxed time with him in character I remembered what I liked about him in the first place, and this role picks it up perfectly. For all the womanising, the ex-addiction, the over-exposure and the silly hair, Brand is actually quite a nice person. Or at least he is remarkably convincing when he plays one. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a fun film, with what we are recognising as the Apatow touches (ie its a chick flick for men). And it works because the film has a heart, surprisingly much of which is provided by Brand. The rest by the puppet Dracula musical.

*The best thing is its attempt to try and contextualise every characters behaviour, in as much as there are no bad guys, not really even any thoughtless people, just slightly flawed people in relationships. Then thrust into a sit-com plot with the usual contortions that requires.