Get Him to the Greek

(2010) ** 1/2 R
109 min. Universal Pictures. Director: Nicholas Stoller. Cast: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Elisabeth Moss, Sean 'Diddy' Combs, Rose Byrne.

/content/films/3763/1.jpgWe’re all enablers when it comes to entertainers, whose most potent drug is an audience. That’s one of the points to take from the new comedy Get Him to the Greek, in which Russell Brand reprises his breakout role of mercurial rocker Aldous Snow.

Snow first appeared in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, thieving Jason Segel’s girlfriend. The front man of power pop group Infant Sorrow, Snow is a louche, strutting alpha rocker defined by his wealth, substance abuse, and failed relationships, all contributors to his artistic and social tunnel vision. His father and former manager (Colm Meaney, always welcome) penned a tell-all, and his model/pop star wife Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) ceremoniously dumps him during a joint TV interview.

Luckily, Snow is otherwise surrounded by “yes people,” including record label head Sergio Roma (Sean “P. Diddy” Combs), who will praise his failures. Snow’s career has experienced serious slippage, thanks to the musical abortion “African Child” (a condescending album one critic called "the worst thing for Africa since apartheid"). When label flunky Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) hatches the idea of an anniversary concert in honor of Snow’s heyday, Sergio assigns him the task of babysitting Aldous and ushering him from London to L.A.'s Greek Theater, on time and only moderately high.

As such, Greek is an unofficial remake of My Favorite Year as well as a spin-off film (for those taking notes, both Hill and Da'Vone McDonald, who plays Sergio’s security guard, played different roles in Marshall). The real show here is the oil-and-water buddy act of Brand and Hill—both of whom have amusing comic voices—and drug-and-alcohol-fueled, at times scatological hijinks. The film reaches its apex with a manic party scene that unleashes the full intimidation of P. Diddy and guarantees the phrase “stroke the furry wall” a place in the comedy lexicon (any sexual connotations are strictly Freudian).

Writer-director Nicholas Stoller (who also helmed Marshall) delivers an entertaining though ungainly comedy that has a hard time reconciling its loony impulses with anything resembling ordinary behavior or emotion. Like many Judd Apatow-produced “bromances,” Greek carries with it a whiff of misogyny—or gynophobia—that’s only partly mitigated by the bad behavior of its males, who as the central figures have the audience’s implicit sympathy. Aaron’s girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men) has a tendency to make unilateral decisions without considering Aaron’s feelings (including ill-advised submission to Aldous’ spontaneous couples counseling), and Aldous calls his ex “a wonderful mother [and] a terrible human being.”

Greek would have been better off sticking strictly to its satire of today’s pop-music world, which deserves the energetic skewering Stoller gives it. Like Snow, the movie itself is a bit intoxicated, on its antics, rock-song spoofs, and weird cameos (over a dozen of them, from Harry Potter’s “Draco Malfoy” Tom Felton to everyone’s favorite Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman). But despite its unconvincing feints at drama or significance, Get Him to the Greek ultimately scores a passing grade on the funny test.

[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]

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