Status: In theaters (opened 6/4/10)
Directed By: Nicholas Stoller
Written By: Nicholas Stoller
Cinematographer: Robert D. Yeoman
Starring: Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne, Sean Combs
Despite the fact that Forgetting Sarah Marshall is probably my favorite comedy of the past few years, I can honestly say that seeing a spin-off involving two of its more minor characters isn’t exactly something I was clamoring for. The Aldous Snow character (Russell Brand) was probably the most over-done part of that film, and while he was really funny at times (particularly when we were given a taste of his music), I found him to be a bit too much on the ridiculous/slapstick side for my liking. Jonah Hill’s character, on the other hand, was more measured the few occasions he turned up, providing comic relief at well-timed moments, even if his presence in the movie did seem like it was probably just conceived in order for Hill to take a free trip to Hawaii to hang out with his friends while they made it. In Get Him to the Greek, it’s not actually clear to me if Hill is supposed to be playing the same character or not; IMDB credits him as “Matthew the Waiter,” but in the new film he plays a character named Aaron Green. Further confusing the matter—or maybe it’s clarifying it—is the fact that Aldous and Aaron never acknowledge previously meeting each other. When I first heard of this movie, I thought it’d be funny to see the interaction between the utlra-fanboy with a barely-suppressed sexual attraction who we’d seen in Sarah Marshall getting a chance to work with (or for) his musical hero. Instead, I’m pretty sure Hill is just in this movie because he’s a funny guy and writer-director Nicholas Stoller—who also directed Sarah Marshall—presumably enjoys working with him.
Blown opportunities for backstory aside, here Hill’s Aaron Green is a young agent trying to make his mark. He’s assigned, as the title so obliquely states, to escort down-and-out rock star Aldous Snow from his home in London to a career-reviving concert at the Greek Theatre in LA. Snow has fallen on hard times since we last saw him: after releasing a disastrous single, his long-time girlfriend (Rose Byrne) has left him, and he’s let his sobriety lapse (to say the least). Green, likewise, is having relationship problems of his own, and the two have the opportunity to bond and exchange advice over the course of their journey. Get Him to the Greek isn’t really a buddy-road-trip movie, though. Rather, its story consists of the events that occur at but a few stops made along the way, and what happens at the two endpoints. In London, Aaron finds an out-of-his-gourd Aldous, who forces him to party all night and miss multiple flights to New York. Once there, some mishaps occur at a taping of The Today Show. Then they go to Vegas so Aldous can confront and/or reconcile with his father (Colm Meaney), where Aaron’s record-executive boss (Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs, as he’s billed on IMDB) meets up with them to ensure that things are on track.
Throughout these happenings, the film consists almost exclusively of whacky, slapstick humor. It’s brash and sometimes gross, but for the most part not just for the sake of being shocking (which I consider to be a good thing). While there’s not much going on story-wise, the movie is funny because Jonah Hill and Russell Brand are funny, and they seem to be given free reign to carry the movie in whichever directions they desire.
By the time the duo finally reaches Los Angeles, some inklings of actual character development begin to surface. Aldous wants to visit his ex and make a plea for her affections, and there’s some actual emotion that surfaces—though it’s also offset by a particularly amusing cameo that I won’t spoil here. Aaron has relationship problems of his own to attend to, and Aldous attempts to help in hilariously awkward fashion. Both of these romances are surprisingly heartfelt and well-developed once the screenplay finally gets around to addressing them, and it’s a welcome change of pace from the frantic, non-stop, balls-out comedy that had been the film’s sole aim until this point. The scene in Vegas, in particular, just feels like it’s trying way too hard; it seems to me an instance of the movie running out of steam because it hasn’t paced itself well enough. Part of this is because the Vegas sequence heavily features “P. Diddy,” whose acting and comedic chops aren’t sufficient to hold his own with Hill and Brand, and Meaney, whose role calls for him to overact to a degree that feels forced even in a movie like this. In contrast, in LA we see the two leads counter-pointed by talented actresses in Rose Byrne and Elisabeth Moss (from TV’s Mad Men). These roles are probably helped by the fact that they’re written mostly straight, deriving humor from being the “normal” people in the lives of the other off-the-wall characters surrounding them. Nonetheless, it’s a nice grounding that helps the movie along.
What happens after this is pretty predictable, but then again it almost has to be. Get Him to the Greek isn’t about story-telling, it’s about eliciting laughs and not much else. It’s funny, yes, but it also becomes a little tired. It might as well have been called Look How Crazy Russell Brand Is, but then again if you’re going to see a movie like this that’s probably exactly what you’re expecting anyway.