Monday, June 7, 2010

Get Him To The Greek (***)

Written and Directed by Nicholas Stoller


The list of exceptional spin-offs is pretty exclusive, but you'd have to etch Get Him To The Greek on that tablet. Borrowing a few characters from 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Greek is a cheery, sometimes dreary rock & roll comedy that has its even collection of laughs and thrills, while still managing to contain complete, interesting characters. Not bad when one of your lead actors is Puff Daddy.

When Aaron (Jonah Hill) is offered the job of escorting rocker bad boy Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) from England to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, he doesn't think twice. You see, Aaron has been a fan of Snow and his band Infant Sorrow all his life so the chance to spend time with one of his idols seems like a no-brainer. Aaron is commissioned by his record executive boss Sergio (Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs) to pick Aldous up from England, fly him to New York to perform on the Today Show, and then next to Los Angeles for his show at the Greek.

Unfortunately, Aldous is no longer the show-stopping act he used to be. The last album he recorded, entitled 'African Child', was instantaneously considered the worst album ever made, and the stress from that led him to relapse back into alcoholism and drug addiction after seven years of sobriety. Meanwhile, his ex-wife Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) has hit it big with her recording career. When Aaron arrives in England, he's surprised to learn that Aldous' life consists simply of substance abuse, casual sex, and a few moments of sober melancholy that Aldous quickly tries to escape.

It becomes obvious that it is hard to keep Aldous on any kind of schedule. Airport arrivals are delayed by intense parties and drug rendezvous, and all the while Aaron does his best to wrangle Aldous and keep him happy at the same (all with Sergio breathing erratically down his back). Aaron also has issues with his longtime girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss), whose domineering attitude and dominating work schedule has started to create a divide between them. On his journey with Aldous, Aaron debates where his life is truly headed when he becomes slightly enticed by rock & roll life that Aldous introduces him to.

Another comedy from the Apatow brand, Greek still has an abundance of true laughs. The screenplay gives new life to the phrase "stroke the wall" (though I'm not totally sure that was a phrase many people were using to begin with). Sure, the comedy is borderline immature, since most of the jokes hinge on sex and drugs. But in a rock & roll movie, the other two have to find their way in somehow. The comedic timing and chemistry between Brand and Hill allow the film to feel elevated while still including sight gags with vomit and dildos.

I could have probably done without the enormous number of celebrity cameos (Lars Ulrich? really?), which was probably the main thing that screamed "I'm capitalizing off of the success of another film!". Greek contains nowhere near the amount of dense emotion or true sincerity that Forgetting Sarah Marshall had, but what it lacks in cleverness, it makes up in learning curves that would seem much more contrived if left in the hands of actors and filmmakers less in control of their screenplay. It helps that Infant Sorrow's songs are well-produced and helpful to the plot, rather than musical hanger-ons.

Russell Brand's Aldous Snow is probably fascinating enough to merit his own movie, but part of me prefers him in the smaller doses of Sarah Marshall. Both Brand and Hill have excellent moments that reveal more to the characters then I would have imagined, and Rose Byrne's supporting turn as the vain rock star's wife adds so much energy and humor in such small doses. Even Diddy has his moments. Get Him To The Greek is probably one of the weaker Apatow films, but that's not exactly the greatest insult you can heap onto a film. In the end, it's a great showcase for Brand and his rollicking brand of comedy.

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