GET HIM TO THE GREEK (Dir. Nicholas Stoller, 2010)
In FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL Russell Brand, as a tawdry British pop star named Aldous Snow, stood out in a strong ensemble of heavy comedy hitters enough so that his character has been granted a very rare entity - a spin-off vehicle of his own. Joining him is Jonah Hill in a different role than the possibly gay hotel employee he embodied in the previous film.
Here Hill is an ambitious record company intern who wants to stage a concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of Brand's band Infant Sorrow's best selling live album recorded at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.
Hill's boss, played to the hilt by Sean "Diddy" Combs, at first vetoes the idea, but comes around and declares that this is Hill's moment to shine. It's a tall order - Brand has recently fallen off the wagon after 7 years because his girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) has just left him and his last record, the oh-so-wrong "African Child", was a huge highly derided flop.
Hill has 3 days to transport the famously decadent and destructive rocker from London to L.A. with a stop in New York for an appearance on the Today Show. Of course, the premise is that none of this goes smoothly and, ahem, wackiness ensues.
To muddy the water, Hill leaves for the trip thinking he's broken up with his live-in-girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men) after a fight about her wanting them to move to Seattle. He arrives to an already wasted Brand who thinks the concert isn't for a couple of months. With a clock countdown alerting us to their stressful schedule we then go through a series of party set-pieces in which Brand predictably side-tracks Hill with sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll at every turn.
Because this is a Judd Apatow production we can't just have an excess of crude in-your-face comedy, we have to get to the heart of these guys in the last reel. Emotional confessions have to be made and tears have to be cried, but since the volume of laughs leading to that has been well over the limit of, say, THE HANGOVER's, I'm not going to complain.
Brand's timing and chemistry along with Hill's dependable awkward schtick is impeccable. He's "on" even, or especially, when his character is off in his own whacked out world; the king of his own little adolescent fantasy land he's built up around him, as Spinal Tap manager Ian Faith would put it.
Combs, or "Diddy" or whatever he goes by today, undoubtedly steals the movie every time he's on the screen. At first recalling Tom Cruise's turn as profane movie exec Len Grossman in TROPIC THUNDER, Combs goes further bringing a kind of gangsta gravitas to every word he speaks. His speechifying about the power of "mindfucking" to Hill is one of the funniest bits of the movie.
As comedies go this year GET HIM TO THE GREEK is a much better than average romp with only a few scenes I could do without. I think most folks will know exactly what they're getting when they go in and will be fine with that. Under Apatow's tutelage director Stoller has assembled a sturdy comic farce with all the trimmings - tons of celebrity cameos, funny freak-outs, and rapid fire one-liners.
It may not single handedly save this summer from its overriding suckiness, but it's an extremely amusing 90 minute reprieve.