Preceded by a very hit and miss track record (in terms of both box office and actual film quality) that has seen him direct the likes of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People and produce the likes of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Superbad, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Drillbit Taylor, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express and Year One, comedy [genius or hack – take your pick] Judd Apatow is back on producing duties once again, this time delivering a spin-off from his mid range success, the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall starring Jason Segel and Kristen Bell (the latter putting in a brief cameo appearance for this spin-off). Get Him to the Greek (which sees director Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller write and direct, with Jason Segel on as co-writer and co-producer) focuses on one of that film’s supporting characters, the flamboyant rock star Aldous Snow, with British comedy actor Russell Brand reprising the role. Interestingly, however, this spin-off also sees comedy actor Jonah Hill (who is highly overrated in this critic’s opinion) returning but in a different role than in Sarah Marshall just to confuse things. Of course, this won’t be of any consequence to this film’s target audience but, as is the case with most comedies that in any way involve Judd Apatow, the kind of humour on display here won’t be to everyone’s tastes, those who enjoy the vulgar sure to have a great time, those who are disgusted by it more likely to be appalled. That said, this is a film that delivers a bit more beneath the surface than you might expect.
Music mogul Sergio Roma (Sean Combs) needs brilliant ideas to restore his company’s flagging fortunes and youthful employee Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) suggests a comeback concert by British rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). It’s been ten years since the hell-raising Brit’s legendary show at LA’s world famous Greek Theatre, and Aaron persuades his boss that the time is right for Aldous to do it again. Sergio likes the idea – and promptly despatches the inexperienced Aaron to London on a mission to bring Aldous back to LA. But Aaron has never met anyone quite like Aldous – a hedonistic dandy with boundless energy and a crazy streak, who has been driven to drug addiction following the failure of his last album and being dumped by the love of his life, fellow rock star Jackie Q (Rose Byrne.) As he gets swept along in the rocker’s life of endless partying, Aaron finds himself embarking on the eye-opening adventure of his life, discovering the man behind the rock star and learning new things about himself, perhaps just in time to save his troubled relationship with girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss). In the space of just 72 hours the lives of both Aaron and Aldous are going to change forever.
Get Him to the Greek gets off to a quite hilarious start, opening with the music video for Aldous Snow’s shockingly bad ‘African Child’ and leading into a series of sequences that highlight his fall from fame and separation from the love of his life Jackie Q (who also has a music video at the start, as well as one later), the very things that lead him to becoming the man we see for most of the duration of the film. This gets the film off to a great start but whether or not you continue to find the rest of the film hilarious will depend on your personal taste in humour. You see, the film delivers a mix of genuinely hilarious and even quite tastefully done scenes that provide genuine laughs, the kind of which aren’t too likely to offend or disgust, but for every tasteful gag or line of dialogue, there is something tasteless and gross just around the corner, and it is this stuff that some may find appalling as was the case with this critic. This tendency towards crude humour prevents the overall film from being as good as it could be but there are still plenty of gags and instances of dialogue that genuinely are laugh out loud funny and the film also surprises by delivering some emotionally tender scenes that show us the man behind the rock star, as well as a good, heartfelt message that emerges from the story. Much of this works because of some fantastic performances. Russell Brand is probably the only person who could play the part of Aldous Snow (and not just because he has already played the part before), being both an entertaining performer and putting some real emotion into his performance. He really channels himself into the part, convincing as both the hedonistic party boy and the broken man who just wants to be loved. This ensures that we actually can care about the character even while he is completely like a complete loon. A completely against type and almost unrecognisable Rose Byrne is also superb, delivering a spot on accent and being completely convincing as Jackie Q. There is a genuine sense of chemistry between Byrne and Brand that really makes us believe in them as a couple, thus heightening the sense of loss that Snow is experiencing. What’s more, both Brand and Byrne are actually pretty good singers, which is a pretty good thing considering that they both get to do a fair bit of singing and have a few not half bad songs to worth with too. Sean Combs is also excellent, stealing the show whenever he is on screen with a performance that is absolutely hilarious. Elsewhere among the cast, Colm Meaney as Snow’s dad is also very entertaining and Elisabeth Moss is positively adorable as Green’s girlfriend. The one weak link among the cast, however, who goes some way to holding the film down, is Jonah Hill. Hill seems pretty much the same as in every other film he has been in and (in this critic’s opinion at least) simply isn’t very funny at all. So, overall, Get Him to the Greek is a mixed bag of a film that has some moments of genuine hilarity but it let down by the unfunny Hill in one of the central roles and some gags that really cross the line of vulgarity. Of course, if you actually like Jonas Hill and like vulgar humour this may well be a five star movie for you but for anyone else it is an entertaining film that is let down by some really gross content.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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