The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Send this page to Twitter!  

THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Get Him to the Greek
Jonah Hill falls under the influence of Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek.

In his compelling memoir “My Booky Wook,” British comedian Russell Brand writes honestly about his early days in show business. Having endured a troubled childhood, he grew up looking for an escape, which he found in drugs, especially heroin. Brand writes that the beauty of heroin, for him, was that it made him stop caring about everything else in his life; he suddenly cared only about one thing rather than dozens of things. This is precisely what made the drug so addictive for him. By his own account, Brand was also a horrible egotist and a sex addict. Watching Get Him to the Greek, it's obvious that the character Brand plays is based on who he used to be. The film is being advertised as a raunchy, madcap comedy, and while it certainly fits that description, the second hour goes to some surprisingly substantive places. Uneven at times, Greek nevertheless is made more interesting by the fact that it's not brainless.

Brand plays Aldous Snow, the out-of-control rock star he also played in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Since that time, Snow's career has gone seriously downhill, following an ill-advised attempt at social consciousness as well as a painful breakup with an equally out-of-control pop singer named Jackie Q (Rose Byrne). His shot at redemption comes when young record company employee Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), desperate to impress his boss, comes up with the idea of arranging a comeback concert. The boss, Sergio (Sean “Diddy” Combs), charges Aaron with flying to London and making sure that Snow gets to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in time for the show. That leaves just 72 hours.

Of course, this task is easier said than done. Snow doesn't do anything on schedule, partially because he's too busy looking for trouble. He's quite good at finding it, whether at the airport, on the set of the “Today” show, or holed up in a Vegas hotel. He doesn't have the most with-it caretaker, either. The straight-laced Aaron is moping around because of relationship troubles with his ambitious doctor girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss). This makes him susceptible to the hyperactive Snow's antics. Drugs are consumed, sex is had, and lessons are eventually learned.

Get Him to the Greek is the latest picture to come from the Judd Apatow collaborative. (Writer/director Nicholas Stoller also made Forgetting Sarah Marshall which, like this film, Apatow produced.) There are two things you can always count on from this group: outrageous comedy and – for lack of a less annoying term – heart. On the first count, the movie succeeds about 75% of the time. A few of the bigger comic sequences are not as funny as Greek thinks they are, most notably a drug-fueled Vegas brawl that involves Snow's father, a fur-covered wall, and the nastiest blunt in the history of drug taking. Others, meanwhile, hit the bullseye. A scene in which Aaron attempts to buy heroin for Snow is hilarious because it perfectly captures the ineptness most of us would feel if we were asked to suddenly engage in illicit activity.

As far as the heart...well, thankfully, Get Him to the Greek doesn't wear it on its sleeve. It does, however, honestly portray the way drugs fuel irresponsibility, promiscuity, and insecurity. Aldous Snow, as played by Brand, is one of the most fascinating characters to hit the big screen in a while. Initially he seems like a cliche – a wild man who is meant only to make us laugh. As the story progresses and he gets closer to his comeback performance, we see another side to Snow, the side that can't quite accept that he's worthy of the affection of fans or even of those close to him. Because the part was obviously modeled so closely on his past life, Brand turns in a very authentic performance that really makes the film. He's funny, but also human.

Jonah Hill is good too, skillfully reacting to the dervish that is Russell Brand, and the supporting cast is tops. Having mostly seen Rose Byrne in dramas, I had no clue she could so humorously play a vapid pop singer. There are additionally a number of clever cameos scattered throughout. Special praise is reserved for Sean Combs, who does not play himself but rather an exaggerated version of his public persona. His Sergio is blustery and demanding; Combs spits out every line of dialogue with such menacing impatience that we understand exactly why Aaron fears him.

Get Him to the Greek grows slightly more serious in its second half, as Snow's problems become too large for Aaron to ignore. Viewers hoping strictly for a Hangover-style raunchy comedy may be a bit put off by the story's occasional detours into near-drama, especially since they occasionally come on a bit abruptly. Despite the not-always-smooth transitions, the mixture of comedy and pathos worked for me precisely because Aldous Snow is more compelling as a three-dimensional human being than as a two-dimensional party animal. I laughed quite frequently and recommend the picture on that count, but Greek's insights into the “sex, drugs, rock and roll” mindset are what really turn it into something special.

( out of four)

Get Him to the Greek is rated R for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language. The running time is 1 hour and 49 minutes.