Thursday, June 3, 2010

Review: "Get Him to the Greek"

I was not expecting much out of "Get Him to the Greek." It's a quasi-sequel to "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which I was only too eager to banish from memory. And the appeal of British comedian Russell Brand had so far eluded my senses.

But "Greek" is one of the consistently funniest movies I've seen in a good long while, and it's got some genuine heart, too.

Consistency was actually my biggest beef with "Sarah Marshall": It had three or four uproarious moments, and a whole lot of drag in between. "Greek" builds laugh upon laugh, to the point where you're missing jokes because the audience is hooting so loud at the previous one.

This film is a coming-out party for Jonah Hill, who's been a reliable comedic sidekick closely associated with Judd Apatow (who's credited here as a producer). Now Hill moves to the front of the stage, and proves an engaging and witty leading man.

Hill actually has quite handsome features underneath all that blubber, and his liquid blue eyes are capable of seeming meek one moment, hard and brazen the next. He plays Aaron Green, a nebbish who comes out of his shell when he's assigned to escort a notorious rock star to a big gig, and it's to Hill's credit that the shy guy doesn't lose his innocence even when he's wallowing in sex and drugs.

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs plays against his smooth persona as egotistical record mogul Sergio Roma, who cares only about sales, not making quality music. At first he rejects Aaron's suggestion of a 10th anniversary concert of Aldous Snow's watershed show at Los Angeles' Greek Theatre, since everyone seems to think the drug-addled rocker is on the downside of his career.

Snow (Brand) is still famous and fabulously wealthy, but has lived inside the celebrity bubble for so long he isn't even aware that his last single, "African Child," was an embarrassing piece of condescending pop puffery. After seven years of sobriety, he's fallen hard off the wagon after being dumped by his special lady, Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), a fellow star singer.

Part of the film's appeal is the hard shots writer/director Nicholas Stoller takes at the music industry -- not just its excesses, but the sheer awfulness of so much of what it produces. (One of Aldous' hits is "I Got the Clap.") Watching Jackie Q or Aldous writhe and bluster in some music video, blurping out lunkhead lyrics to overproduced techno beats, one can't help be reminded of some of the drek that's popular on the air waves.

A ton of celebrities make cameos, including Lars Ulrich, Pink, Christina Aguilera and Billy Bush.

Sergio eventually signs off on the show, and it's Aaron's job to get Aldous safely and soberly from London to the Greek in 72 hours, stopping off to appear on the "Today Show" along the way. Of course, the rocker is much more interested in drinking, doping and partying.

Soon enough Aaron is flying high, rubbing up against strippers and puking all over himself. He sobers up long enough to remember his duties, and frets at his lapses -- and what effect they'll have on his relationship with Daphne (Elisabeth Moss).

We learn that Aldous, despite his asshat front, actually has a little soul to him, underneath mounds of narcissism.

Even though it's kind of a modern-day knockoff of "My Favorite Year," I still loved spending time with the duo of Hill and Brand. "Get Him to the Greek" rocked my funny bone -- hard.

3.5 stars out of four

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