In 2008, Russell Brand appeared in Forgetting Sarah Marshall as his alter ego Aldous Snow, a cocky, obnoxious rock star who nabs hottie Kristen Bell from her long time boyfriend. Brand nearly stole the movie out from a cast of gifted comedy heavy-weights. Brand reprises that role in Get Him to the Greek, a comedy/road-trip/buddy movie in which he is paired with Jonah Hill.
Jonah Hill is quickly becoming my go-to guy when it comes to comedy. Although he is usually relegated to supporting character status, I find him to be a welcome addition to any ensemble cast. Now, he gets to flex his muscles (the acting sort, there are none to be found on his actual body) and take a jab at leading man status. With his doughy physique Hill makes an unconventional leading man, but he is strangely endearing and relatable.
As odd as this pairing might seems, it works exceptionally well. Also unexpected, but equally hilarious, is the casting of Sean Combs as an ego-maniacal record executive who provides some of the film’s biggest laughs, believe it or not.
Aldous has committed some disastrous career missteps, causing him to hit rock bottom as a performer. His co-dependent relationship with British tart pop-singer Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) was played out in public eye, and his single “African Child” was deemed, “The single most damaging thing to happen to African culture besides famine and plague.” In other words, it was a publicity nightmare.
After losing Jackie Q for good, Snow doesn’t just fall off the wagon, he leaps off of it with zeal. Now he is pumped full of every drug in the book, and then some, and he is one hell of a hot mess.
Hill plays Aaron Green, a lowly intern at a record company. He has the audacity to suggest to his emotionally unhinged boss Sergio (Combs) that perhaps they should branch out from stale hip-hop and rap acts. He has hatched the idea for Aldous Snow and his band, Infant Sorrow can come back to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles for 10th anniversary show. If the show is successful, the public might forget about the disaster of “African Child”, and Infant Sorrow will be a hot commodity.
It’s a win-win for the record company and the band, and Aaron is positively giddy when he is told he will be responsible for fetching Aldous and accompanying him back to Los Angeles in time for the show. Aaron has no idea what he is in for.
Aaron’s dream job turns into a nightmare when he is forced to partake in all the stereotypical rock star excesses and indulgences. There’s booze, bimbos, and drugs galore, and Aaron’s lack of experience with all three provides for some slapstick comedy. A montage of what happens on the night the two partake of absinthe is one of the funniest things you will see in a movie this summer. At one point they are playfully walloping each other with bags of trash out in the street, much like you might see someone in a pillow fight.
Since Aaron’s career is hinging on the success of the concert, he is at the mercy of Aldous’s whims, and finds himself in one ridiculously demeaning situation after another.
However, by the end of the film, Aldous and Aaron have forged a tenuous friendship, despite all the crap Aldous puts Aaron through. Part of this is because Aaron gets to see how rock stars are treated by the industry. They are no better than a racehorse; they are just a means to an end.
Sergio supplies Aldous with whatever drugs are needed to get him to perform, and he carefully explains to a horrified Aaron that he must keep a performer in the perfect zone-a little messed up, but not so messed up that they can’t perform. Sergio could care less that Aldous is an addict, he will enable him in any way possible as long as he stands to make a buck.
I suspect there is a little more truth to the movie than any of us would care to admit. The film also satirizes the culture of celebrity worship. Jackie Q’s post-Aldous dating life is chronicled on the cover of all the tabloids, Extra covers their break- up with all the sincerity that should be given to real world events, and Aldous is always surrounded by a bunch of “yes men” who agree with everything he says or does, no matter how stupid.
Sergio, in particular, is a satirical character. He is rich and powerful, and therefore no one ever stands up to him. He constantly walks around with his chest puffed out and drops nonsensical advice, “We believe in valid truths,” is one of his favorite catch-phrases, and he never clarifies it or puts it in context, so he just sounds like a jackass.
The supporting ladies are lots of fun here. We get to see two great actresses who normally play shrill and uptight television characters (Rose Byrne on Damages, and Elisabeth Moss on Mad Men) let their hair down, so to speak. Byrne is a blast vamping it up as the slutty and inappropriate Jackie Q, and Moss gets to play the quirky physician girl-friend of Aaron. It’s always refreshing to see actresses play against type.
Get Him to the Greek is written and directed by Nicholas Stoller, who also directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Judd Apatow served as a producer on the movie, and it bears his unmistakable stamp of providing a distinctly human element to farcical fare. Underneath this wacky premise lies a sweet movie about friendship that is very satisfying.