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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Get Him to the Greek (review)

Rock Stale

Two years ago, English comedian and force of nature Russell Brand was the very best thing in the otherwise drearily neurotic Forgetting Sarah Marshall. As sex-crazed rock star Aldous Snow — new boyfriend to the girl to be forgotten — Brand was (to quote myself):

full of snappy energy and offbeat charm that the rest of the movie lacks, but it’s like [he’s] been imported at great expense from another story entirely.

This is, in effect, that other story. Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller here takes over the screenwriting too to give us a story of Snow and the meek employee of Pinnacle Records who must chaperone him from London to Los Angeles for the big concert that’s going to save Pinnacle from going under. As genus American Comedy, species Raunchy Grossout goes, Get Him to the Greek (L.A.’s Greek Theatre, that is) is about as good as it gets, which is to say: it’s hit or miss — mostly miss — and suffers from a tonal mismatch because it cannot decide whether it wants to be outrageous or sentimental, is unable to entirely embrace either end of the emotional spectrum, and yet is further unable to reconcile the incongruity to create a cohesive whole instead what we get, a series of disjointed sketches. But the few times Greek does hit, it gets off some pointed, witty zingers at the expense of the degradation of pop culture, celebrity self-involvement, and the death throes of corporate music.

Russell Brand (Bedtime Stories) is still the best thing here, but at least he gets to be onscreen a helluva lot more than he was in Sarah Marshall. Alas that onscreen just as often is Jonah Hill (How to Train Your Dragon, The Invention of Lying) as Aaron Green, the hapless Pinnacle drone who cannot possibly hope to corral an inveterate party animal such as Snow. (Hill also appeared in Sarah Marshall, though not as the same character.) Hill, sadly, is just as at sea as his character is: it’s impossible to imagine how so timid a creature as Aaron has not ended up eaten alive in the music industry, or what he has brought to Pinnacle Records that he should be so rewarded — or so his assignment appears — with the job of hanging out with “one of the last remaining rock stars” for a few days. (The Greek concert was Aaron’s idea, but that’s hardly reason enough to justify this boon.) For the most part, we’re meant to identify with Aaron as this “nice guy” “cuts loose,” but Hill has neither the presence nor the charisma to pull off a leading role like this. We don’t like him. We barely notice him. Aaron simply isn’t very interesting or appealing.

Aldous Snow, on the other hand, is a hoot: probably not someone you’d actually want to encounter in real life, but this is a movie. I wish Stoller had been more willing to simply throw us full bore into the train wreck that is Aldous’s life — you know, like This Is Spinal Tap did with its horrifying rock star idiots we couldn’t look away from — but I’m struck with a terrible certainty that Greek believes that it needs to spell out, in no uncertain terms, a cautionary tale about how the “glamorous life” ain’t so glamorous and “ordinary life” as lived by us mere mortals is far better. For we are sidetracked from the really intriguing and genuinely provocative stuff — of which there is too little to begin with — by a tedious subplot involving bumps in Aaron’s relationship with his girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss: Mad Men), contrasting with Aldous’s disaster of a romance with another pop star, Jackie Q (a hilarious Rose Byrne: Knowing, Adam). Just as Aaron figures out what he wants out of life, we’re suddenly meant to feel sorry for Aldous, who really is quite lonely, don’tcha know. Turns out the jetsetting, drug-taking, free-sex-everywhere, millionaire rock star lifestyle ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Who knew?

But even there, Greek doesn’t quite hit the right notes: If it hopes to make Aaron’s life more attractive than Aldous’s, it doesn’t… at least not within the confines of this fictional tale. And yet it can’t see that that’s what it’s doing. It’s sort of as sadly clueless as Aldous is supposed to be. I wish Stoller had had the nerve to go where his story appears to have wanted to take him. It would have taken as much nerve as some of the suprising cameos seem to have had to agree to appear as they do. It’s a pity Stoller is as meek as Aaron.


Watch Get Him to the Greek online using LOVEFiLM‘s streaming service.


MPAA: rated R for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Funwithheadlines

    I wish Stoller had been more willing to simply throw us full bore into the train wreck that is Aldous’s life — you know, like This Is Spinal Tap did with its horrifying rock star idiots we couldn’t look away from — but I’m struck with a terrible certainty that Greek believes that it needs to spell out, in no uncertain terms, a cautionary tale about how the “glamorous life” ain’t so glamorous and “ordinary life” as lived by us mere mortals is far better.

    Yeah, this is an old Hollywood problem since at least the time when Irving Thalberg told the Marx Brothers they needed some songs and romance for the ladies and we went from the inspired lunacy of Duck Soup where nothing mattered but humor to the brilliant bits of Night at the Opera mixed with the boring bits when you go get popcorn while Alan Jones sings and you do not care who gets picked to sing the arias but could we please have more of Chico and Harpo conducting the orchestra, please.

    Wild comedy should exist in its own universe. Leave the sentiment for another movie.

  • JoshDM

    Forgetting Sarah Marshall was dull enough, but I had no idea this was a sequel of sorts / shared universe.

  • JB

    I’m looking forward to this movie. There were a lot of great points in this review, and it made me think a little more about the film. Didn’t even realize that this is related to Forgetting Sarah Marshall! But I’ll still be getting my tickets on June 4th!

  • Brian

    I must be horribly out of touch. I have no idea who this Russell Brand character is — I only first saw him when I watched the new Monty Python Almost the Truth documentary on Netflix last week. They’re continually interviewing him in that doc as though he is someone whose opinion people might care about, and I keep wondering, “who is this twitchy stoner?”

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Heh, I take it you don’t like in the UK, then, Brian. Over here’s he’s been inescapable for the past three or four years. Horribly, relentlessly, painfully inescapable.

  • MaryAnn

    Heh, I take it you don’t like in the UK, then, Brian. Over here’s he’s been inescapable for the past three or four years. Horribly, relentlessly, painfully inescapable.

    The things that I’ve heard about his misadventures at home make me suspect that I’d be sick of him if I lived there, too. But we’re not overexposed to him here. Not yet, at least.

  • Brian

    @Der Bruno – No, I don’t live in the UK (love to visit, though), but that’s no guarantee I’d have known much about him. I probably couldn’t even ID Lady Gaga in a police lineup.

    (Well, not out of costume anyway. Otherwise it would go sorta like: “That one, officer! The one wearing live eels as earrings!”)

  • Jon

    Excellent review. The film looks really “meh” to me. I will definitely wait for DVD. Sean Combs was funny in the trailer though.

    Oh, and I wanted to say your MacGruber review was fantastic, too. I could tell the fanboys would be angry.

  • “A hilarious Rose Byrne” – now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d read.

  • bronxbee

    this sounds remarkably like the (from what i gather) far superior 1982 movie, “My Favorite Year” with Peter O’Toole and Mark Linn-Baker.

    from IMDB:

    Alan Swann [Peter O’Toole] finds himself in NY City trying to pay off his tax bills by appearing on the King Kaiser show. He’s drunk much of the time, heroic more, and funny all. His follies are supported by – and reported on – by a young, aspiring Jewish comedy writer (Mark Linn-Baker) who saves, and is saved by, the man who proclaims the he is “not an actor. I’m a movie star.”

  • Love Supreme

    I usually like British comedians/stars, but Russell really gets on my nerves. I watched IFC’s Python documentary, and remembered how twitchy (good description, Brian) and awful Brand was. His commentary made no sense, and it seemed obvious that he was “enhanced” in some way (which makes him “edgy”, at least in the eyes of Hollywood). And his propensity for telling the entire world about his sordid personal life is really off putting.

    I kind of like Jonah Hill, though. Think he’s more interesting and a better actor than Seth Rogen.

  • Chris

    I definetly agree with Mary Ann in that the best thing about this movie was Russell Brand. He’s the Homer Simpson of the movie, he does dumb shit, doesnt really think how he effects others but yet you, and those around him in the movie, seem to find a way to forgive him simply because he’s an idiot.

    The movie does not have the strongest plot, but for the most part it works, primalry because they do a good job of pegging the high end life of the music industry and the celebrity that comes with it. Hill is hit or miss and I agree with Mary Ann, you dont really care about him.

    The one thing I think Mary Ann did truly miss in her review though was praise for Sean Comb’s performance, which was right on the level of Russell’s performance. I read that Sean actually auditioned for the part and the director was smart to realize that known is going to get this character better than him.

    I think if your someone who enjoys great jokes and can forgive the movie of really lacking a good plot, you’ll have fun, otherwise do as Mary Ann says and wait for DVD.

  • Brad

    Just as Aaron figures out what he wants out of life, we’re suddenly meant to feel sorry for Aldous, who really is quite lonely, don’tcha know. Turns out the jetsetting, drug-taking, free-sex-everywhere, millionaire rock star lifestyle ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Who knew?

    I had some interest in seeing this movie until I read the above. What an overused and concescending message. Thanks MaryAnn, I would’ve walked out angry.

  • “I must be horribly out of touch.”

    I hadn’t heard of this guy until I read the review; I must have forgotten the review of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

    I remember running on a tread mill at a gym watching a documentary about a rock star with a blond Afro who had risen to fame, fortune, and lots of sex and then fallen under the weight of drugs killing his talent, and his whole career had come and gone with my noticing.

    What’s the point in keeping in touch with things that come and go so easily?

  • Jevon O

    I just saw the movie last night, and had the Exact Same Sentiments! You made the point about sentimentality for the sake of sentiment, and the movie not being willing to go where it was taking us. I agree! Don’t preach to me! I *know* I am not learning anything from this movie so, dear God, just let me laugh. I work 8-9 hours a day and with that money I decided to see a Raucous Comedy. Please, spare me the bullshit and just give me some bullshit, if you know what I mean.

    It made this abrupt turn where, all of the sudden, it wanted to preach to me about relationships. The problem is, early on in the movie, I already realized I didn’t respect any characters’ view on ‘relationships,’ and thus, I was watching/enjoying the movie for different reasons. It preached not for five minutes, but for around twenty. If not for those twenty minutes of confusing, pitifully off based person to person (male-male, female-male) relationship and life advice, I could have given this movie an A. Instead, it attempted to Say Something. And by opening it’s mouth it removed the idea in my head that the movie wasn’t taking itself seriously, and instead felt it owned some sort of platform with which to teach me on.

    B. As I get older, I am less and less offended by these parts of movies, but, like Hangover, if you just *Leave It Off* the people will laugh, and leave laughing.

  • MaryAnn

    The one thing I think Mary Ann did truly miss in her review though was praise for Sean Comb’s performance,

    What makes you think I missed this? Maybe I just didn’t like his performance…

  • CS

    Yeah, the problem comes with its desperate need to wrap the Relationship Talk with a nice, pretty bow. Elisabeth Moss was a throwaway in this movie. It’s pretty classic Apatow in the “the female characters are horribly written” sense. Stoller could and probably should have made Aaron’s character single, and he can’t make Jonah Hill a good straight man, which is what he’s supposedly here.

    I got enough laughs out of Brand to make it worth the matinee ticket price, but I wouldn’t have shelled out $10 for it.

  • RN

    I often wonder if it is just my imagination (since even reviewers like MAJ who are among the more likely to pick up on this sort of stuff haven’t commented much on it) or whether there actually is a strong current of misogyny in a lot of these “bromance” flicks.

    I feel like I have noted it in every such movie (knocked-up, super-bad, forgetting sarah, I love you man, the Hangover-ugh I cannot believe I watched every one of those and I am not even a critic). I actually thought the Hangover was particularly bad with Ed Helms’ wife basically being made out to be the reincarnation of the devil.

    This movie is the same I felt-the male characters at the end of the day are lovable schlubs with their faults, but the women are all “controlling career obsessed bitches”, “lying cheats”…so on…

    I guess I should give it props for at least presenting a female character who is an honest to goodness, busy-as-hell, medical doctor. But, at the end of the day, the movie clearly feels these career bitches are such a drag..
    Where’s a good, old fashioned, golden hearted hooker when you need her?

    Meh..personally I think this sort of gender wars angle is lame and should be obsolete by now. Or maybe the women who enjoy SATC should just mate with the type of men who relish in this sort of misogyny and leave the male and female adults alone.

    As I remember some critic once saying (I think it wass with reference to that other obnoxious, targeted at women franchise Bridget Jones-thank God that one seems to have died a natural death): “Something for the boors with the Y chromosome and something for those without.”

  • Boingo

    Saw it last night. MJ’s review: On the money.
    Looked as if it was going “somewhere (a build up,etc.).”Got sappy, and fragmented.

    I ignored MJ’s review and went with the Rotten Tomatoes’
    overall verdict. Wrong I was.

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