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.