Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow was one of the best parts of 2008’s FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. A recovering drug addict and alcoholic, the acerbic Snow was the very definition of the Nightmare Next (the a-hole who dates your ex after you). He’s super-awesome at sex, he’s a world famous rock star and worse, he’s likeable. Even as he’s berating all around him with one-liners, part of you wants to punch him in the face the other half hopes he invites you to the after-after party.
A spinoff more than a sequel, GET HIM TO THE GREEK, moves Brand into co-lead with Jonah Hill, who also was in MARSHALL playing an entirely different character. Fortunately, Snow’s mix of ass-holiness, rock star god prowess with an inner-core of regular dude has survived the transition.
By the time of GREEK, Snow has released AFRICAN CHILD, a self indulgent message record so rivaled, considered so offensive, one reviewer calls it “the worst thing for Africa since apartheid.” He’s also had a very public break up with long time girlfriend, mother of his child Naples, and cinematic doppelganger for Lady Gaga, Jackie Q. Now off the wagon, Snow has returned to his sex, drugs and rock and roll roots with a vengeance.
Enter Hill’s straitlaced, but rock knowledgeable, Aaron Green an intern at Capitol Records trying to impress his boss Sergio (Sean Combs aka Diddy). As a way to increase sagging record sales, Aaron, an Aldous Snow fan, suggests that they put on a 10th Anniversary concert of Snow’s LIVE AT THE GREEK. Sergio, looking for sexier schemes, rejects the idea.
However, after obviously crunching the sales numbers, and realizing the ideas his other employees had were just f’n stupid, Sergio decides the concert is not only a good idea, it should be Aaron who retrieves Snow from London and gets him to LA in time for the concert.
Director/Writer Nicholas Stoller, who also directed MARSHALL, earns the most laughs when he concentrates on the juxtaposition between Green’s let the rock star be the rock star so we can get the job done mandate and Snow’s anarchy, chaos, live in the moment ethos. The more Green desperately attempts to appease Snow’s every whim, from hiding heroin in his rectum, to indulging in and succumbing to absinthe’s seductive charms, the funnier the film becomes.
Much like Bing Crosby in the old ROAD TO…pics, Hill gets to be both the straight man as well as the purveyor of a few well timed barbs. It creates a dynamic that not only doesn’t rely on Brand to carry the movie by his lonesome, but also puts Hills’s Aaron in a position to be treated more as an equal by Snow than just a company flunky.
Brand continues to be just as he was in MARSHALL, only now his Snow is under the influence of half a dozen different substances and turned up a few notches. It’s a testament to Brand’s skills as an actor that Snow remains accessible and fun as a character and not just a cipher for jokes. There’s a moment in which Snow is talking to his son Naples that’s both funny and heartbreaking.
Amping all this up is Combs, whose Sergio has some of the best lines of the film. “I’m mind-fucking you right now,” will rightfully become a much quoted line of summer—which also means you’ve got about 7 to 14 days from when the film comes out before it also becomes the most annoying line of summer. One suspects that Combs has dealt with stars like Snow off-screen and he brought that to his Sergio.
As funny as the film is, what doesn’t entirely work are the emotional stakes shoe-horned in to give the movie a narrative backbone. A subplot involving Aaron’s girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss) getting a job offer is not only clichéd, it’s structurally superfluous. It highlights how, taken as a whole and compared to the men, under drawn the women are in comedy. Stoller has an Emmy nominated actress from one of the greatest shows—that would be MAD MEN—of all time in Moss, and the best he can do with her his relegate her to reacting to a phone for most of GREEK’s running time.
For Snow’s character, the quest to reconnect with his family renders the movie more episodic than need be. With an itinerary that includes stops in New York, Las Vegas and L.A., the repeated utterances of we need to get to the airport become tiresome. Stoller’s largest misstep comes when instead of mining two huge revelations for deeper truths and character development, Stoller opts for the easy-bake ending. It all makes for a rather lackluster 3rd act and predictable coda.
Even with those flaws, GET HIM TO THE GREEK is still hands down one of the funniest films of the year and so far one of the better films of the 2010 summer.