Sunday, June 20, 2010

Get Him to the Greek / *** (R)

Aaron Green: Jonah Hill
Aldous Snow: Russell Brand
Sergio Roma: Sean Combs
Daphne Binks: Elizabeth Moss
Jackie Q: Rose Byrne

Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by Nicholas Stoller. Based on characters created by Jason Segel. Running time: 109 min. Rated R (for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language).

The movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is an intelligent, if sometimes crude, adult romantic comedy. The best part of the movie is the off-the-wall performance by British comedian Russell Brand as the spacey rock star Aldous Snow. Now, we have “Get Him to the Greek”, which is not a sequel to “Marshall” so much as it is a spin-off.

The entire purpose of “Greek” is to give audiences more of Brand’s Aldus Snow, who was relegated to a supporting role in the previous film. It finds Snow as a rock star past his prime. After incredible early success, his career has fallen into ridicule thanks to an ill-advised concept album and a particularly offensive song, “African Child”. His marriage to pop diva Jackie Q (Rose Byrne, “Knowing”) has long since fallen apart, his drug addictions seem to have gotten the best of him and he stands on the brink of disappearing into obscurity. The opening scenes of the film, especially the music video of “African Child”, suggest a movie that will present a silly caricature of the eccentricities of celebrity, possibly a one joke movie. What results is very funny and somewhat deeper than expected.

Jonah Hill, meanwhile, does not reprise his role from “Marshall”, but instead plays Aaron Green, an intern for a music executive that charges his staff with the task of coming up with the next big event in the failing music industry. In a surprisingly effective comic turn, Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs plays the executive as a bit of a head case who uses his power of intimidation as a method of motivation, both for his staff and “the talent”. Hill comes up with the idea of an anniversary concert for one of Snow’s greatest live shows. The idea is initially rejected, but then the executive has second thoughts—this is probably just another tool in his intimidation game—and charges Hill with the much more difficult than it sounds task of getting Snow to the gig on time.

Hill is wonderfully cast because of his innate ability to look uncomfortable in just about any situation, even when he’s having a good time. He has three days to fly Snow from London to Los Angeles for the gig. Snow has brought the art form of procrastination to a new level of stupefaction with his constant partying and drug taking, and yet somehow it always looks to others as if it’s Aaron who’s got the problem. At the same time, Aaron is dealing with a falling out with his girlfriend, Daphne (Elizabeth Moss, TV’s “Mad Men”), a medical intern who gets no sleep and decides to move to Seattle without consulting Aaron. Hill’s discomfort throughout the movie is a cue to audience members who might be numb to Snow’s decadent lifestyle.

But once again it is Brand who surprises by not turning Snow into some slapstick joke of a character who just does all these crazy things to torture Aaron. Certainly there is a high degree of that, such as when he stops on the way to the airport to buy drugs and forces Aaron to place them in an area of embarrassment in order to get through security. Snow is also given a serious side when we see the strong sense of love he has for his son, who is in the custody of his ex-wife. Jackie Q is also not the witch you’d expect but continues a complicated relationship with Snow that shows they clearly still share love for each other.

Those elements, however, are part of the script by writer/director Nicholas Stoller. Brand also brings a great amount of depth to the character in his sympathetic performance. Brand’s rock star has something more lying beneath the surface, even when he’s embracing the most self-destructive elements of the celebrity lifestyle. Snow is not just a hard partying escapist. He’s also intelligent and charming. This lends the rock star a stronger reality, a reason for being famous beyond just being eccentric.

All this discussion of character and depth may give a false impression of the movie being some sort of serious study of what makes a celebrity tick. “Get Him to the Greek” is not an in depth analysis, though. In fact, it isn’t much of anything as a story. It’s basically the goof of a movie that it seems to be; it just has surprisingly strong leading characters and performances. Upon the evidence seen here, I can’t wait until Brand moves beyond these goofy movies and into more serious fare. I think he can make the leap. Not that he shouldn’t continue with comedy, because he’s funny as hell.

Get Him to the Greek | Movie Trailers

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