A film review by Craig J. Koban June 10, 2010


2010, R, 108 mins.


Aaron Green: Jonah Hill / Aldous Snow: Russell Brand / Jackie Q: Rose Byrne / Daphne Binks: Elisabeth Moss / Jonathan Snow: Colm Meaney / Sergio Roma: Sean Combs

Directed by Nicholas Stoller / Written by Stoller, based on characters by Jason Segel

Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) has hit absolute rock bottom at the beginning of GET HIM TO THE GREEK.  

You may remember him as the unrelentingly narcissistic and hedonistic British rock star in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALLIn that film he was a successful lead singer of a band called Infant Sorrow and his songs and videos were sanctimoniously hilarious and self-aggrandizing riffs on world peace and harmony (his "We Got to Do Something" had him flashing cards that say "Buy Green" juxtaposed against him miming intercourse with nuns).  His latest Magnum opus of schlock and awe (shown in a hilarious montage at the beginning of GET HIM TO THE GREEK) is called "African Child".  So smug and utterly full of himself in on-set interviews during the making of it, Snow self-confidently describes himself as a “White-African-Jesus.” 

It gets worse.  The video – which he made with his girlfriend and fellow musician, Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) – is so naively offensive that critics quickly lambasted it as wretched drivel: one noted that it was the worst thing to happen to black culture since the Rodney King beatings, whereas another humorously christened it as the worst atrocity to befall Africa since apartheid.  Having once been a heavy boozer and habitual drug user, Snow once again returns to his pathetic ways after the single all but ruins his career and sends him into a narcotic tailspin.  This leads him to breaking up with Jackie Q and just when her career begins to take off.  Confounding Aldous' situation further is that the couple has a son named Naples that may or may not be his.  The final nail in Aldous’ coffin is that he also laments about his own father’s absenteeism in his life over the last several years.  He becomes lonely, miserable, and without much hope in the world. 

A savoir, of sorts, enters Aldous’ increasingly destabilized world in the form or Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), a young, determined, and energetic intern that works at Pinnacle Records in L.A..  He too has his own form of relationship woes: his long-terms girlfriend (MAD MEN’s delightful Elizabeth Moss) is an interning doctor that works such late hours that she barely is able to spend time with Aaron, let alone see him.  Aaron also has problems on the work front: his head boss, Sergio (in a career-changing performance by Sean Combs) is a f-bomb uttering, trash talking slave driver that never hesitates to reveal to his underlings how utterly pathetic they are.  After several ideas are colorfully mocked by Sergio, the sheepish Aaron reveals his master plan to him: convince Aldous Snow to return to the Greek Theatre for a tenth anniversary performance to commemorate when his career was at its apex.   

Begrudgingly, Sergio accepts Aaron’s plan, seeing as Pinnacle is losing money fast and they need a big score.  He then orders Green to go to the U.K., pick up Snow, and then safely and securely bring him to an interview on NBC’s THE TODAY SHOW and then to the big concert in L.A..  The trek involves going from London to New York to Las Vegas and to L.A. and all within 72 hours.  Aaron, at least initially, thinks that this is his dream job, seeing that he is a worshiper of Aldous’ for years.  However, it soon becomes abundantly clear very early on that Aldous’ toxically self-destructive lifestyle of sex, drugs, rock and roll and all other manners of depravity have no bounds, which makes Aaron’s mission to deliver him on time in America all the more of a Herculean challenge. 

GET HIM TO THE GREEK is not a sequel to FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, the latter being one of the best romcoms of its year or any other.  That film introduced us to Russell Brand’s freewheeling, profane and perversely likeable rocker, not to mention that it also featured Jonah Hill, albeit in a totally different role (in that film he played Hawaiian hotel employee with an obsessive fanboy-crush for Aldous that reached creepy levels).  I would more aptly describe GET HIM TO THE GREEK as a spin-off, which is a term that usually has me sighing and shaking my head in disappointment.  However, the director of MARSHALL, Nicholas Stroller, has returned to not only helm GREEK, but he also wrote the screenplay.  The end result is a film that – much to the Judd Apatow canon of screen comedy (he also produced) – is another finely tuned and uproarious amalgam of lewd and crude raunch with a warm and underplayed sentimentality.  Bawdiness mixed with sugar sweetness – and it just the right doses – is a decidedly tough act to pull off, but films like KNOCKED UP, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, and now GET HIM TO THE GREEK show their effortless command of the formula.  The film has wall-to-wall slapstick, gross-out gags, and scatological silliness galore, but underneath all of that is a willingness to explore depths to its respective characters that usually would not be there in other witless comedies. 

The film also has a scandalous amount of fun as a rock star satire, showcasing Aldous at his most outrageously provocative and eroticized (his music lyrics are howlers).  All of this, of course, would never work without the tenaciously randy performance by Russell Brand, who is able to deliver the most offensive and potty-mouthed diatribes in an oddly sincere manner (my favourite line involves him stating, "Don't think of it as a threesome…think of it as having sex with your girlfriend, while someone else also has sex with your girlfriend”).  Brand’s performance and the script are also sly and nimble for how well they underscores Aldous' wounded psyche that was rarely on the screen in MARSHALL.  Brand, in real life, has had his share of problems with addictions to sex, heroin, and alcohol (a most lethal trifecta, if there ever was one) and has famously been involved in public licentiousness.  I think that his personal history gives his performance an added level of texture and complexity.  For sure, he can play a wanton and excessive boozer and partier with the best of them, but when he has to play quieter and more introspective moments in the film amidst all of the vulgarity on display, he comes across as believably heartfelt.   

The other half of the film’s comedic dynamic duo is Jonah Hill, who is the perfect foil to Brand’s flamboyant eccentricities.  Hill is short, massively rotund, and fairly meek looking, and he is one of the shrewdest young actors at bridging the gap between playing up broad physical high jinks with moments of childlike sweetness (as Aldous amusingly tells him at one point, "You look like a boy that has just discovered his first erection").  Hill brings a surprisingly level of humility and vulnerability to Aaron, and to see his straight laced and by-the-book schlub slowly succumb to Snow’s unhinged rock star decadence provides the film’s most riotous laughs.  We are driven to laugh even harder because Aaron is essentially coerced into doing everything asked of him, mostly to appease Aldous, but also to get him to his destination safely and securely so that Sergio does not kill the poor sap.   

They are several wickedly funny moments in the film: There’s a great scene where Sergio instructs Aaron to completely limit Aldous’ intake of anything “bad”, so Aaron proceeds to smoke, drink, and take all of Snow illicit substances that he has on his person while on route to THE TODAY SHOW, with predictably inspiring results.  Later on there is a fast and furious montage of Aaron’s hapless attempts to secure Aldus with some heroin.  The film then builds to two climatic comic highpoints, the first of which occurs during a pit stop at a strip club where Aldous and Aaron hook up with Aldous’ estranged dad during which Aaron smokes a very lethal joint called a “Geoffrey” that culminates in him having a minor heart attack and with Aldous stabbing him an adrenaline needle to his heart (the sheer comic ferocity and intensity of the whole scene is infectious).  The second scene involves a very distraught and depressed Aldous making an impromptu visit to Aaron’s apartment where he offers both him and his girlfriend a way to get out of their own relationship foibles: a three-way with him.  The scene goes from odd to hilariously odder

The film also generates some surprisingly strong comedic performances from the supporting cast.  Rose Byrne is a peculiar choice for a film like this, but her cheeky and loopy portrayal as the girl that got away from Aldous is a giddy delight.  Then there is Sean “Diddy” Combs as the Pinnacle Records head honcho that nearly hijacks the film away from the other participants.  Combs does something special here with a fairly marginal character: he makes Sergio so invitingly repressible, vile and crude; he's a lovably unhinged figure of menace throughout.  He also occupies a very funny scene where he explains to Aaron the art of “Mind f - - cking” people to get what he wants.  Aaron deadpans back, “I hope your wearing a condom, because I have a dirty mind.”  Combs then illustrates how to convey a perfectly captured stone cold reaction for just the right hysterical effect.

GET HIM TO THE GREEK is certainly no equal to FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, but there is no denying that it's 2010’s most giddily hard R-rated and stomach-achingly funny comedy.   The film has ample nudity, foul-words, and a unhealthy fixation on drugs, alcohol and overall depravity, but it also has shameful amount of fun showing Aldous and Aaron's sensationalistic journey through one madcap and unmentionable scene to the next.  The film’s resemblance to MY FAVORITE YEAR (the great Peter O’ Toole film about a frigidity innocent man pulled into the grasp of a celebrity’s compulsive and destructive habits) is more than fleeting.  GET HIM TO THE GREEK overrides its somewhat derivative and perfunctory storyline (it’s a "get him from point a to b to c" film) by fusing unrestrictive bawdiness and delicately placed sentimentality without one overriding the other.  And Brand as his furry wall stroking, drug and liquor binging, floozy humping, and hopelessly delusional and melancholic “White African Jesus” rock god inhabits his role with a real go-for-broke gusto and feisty audaciousness.  In the film you believe Brand at his most egomaniacally fanatical and at his most self-loathingly reflective and wounded.  Not an easy dichotomy to pull off for any actor…for sure.

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