Monday, June 7, 2010

Movie Review: Get Him to the Greek

Get Him to the Greek *** ½
Directed By:
Nicholas Stoller.
Written By: Nicholas Stoller based on characters created by Jason Segal.
Starring: Russell Brand (Aldous Snow), Jonah Hill (Aaron Green), Elisabeth Moss (Daphne Binks), Rose Byrne (Jackie Q.), Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs (Sergio Roma), Colm Meaney (Jonathan Snow), Lino Facioli (Naples), Lars Ulrich (Himself).

Get Him to the Greek is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. The previews made this film look horribly unfunny and strained – so much so that I wondered why Jonah Hill and Russell Brand had agreed to reprise their supporting roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and become the leads this time. But the film itself is nothing like the preview – which made the film look like a never ending stream of shit and dick jokes. Yes, they have those in the final film as well, but there is also a lot more in Get Him to the Greek. The two leads are wonderful together, and more than that, they are actually playing real characters. There is something going on beneath the surface of the film.

The film stars Brand as Aldous Snow, Britain’s most infamous rock star whose career is in freefall. His ex-wife, Jackie Q. (Rose Bryne), has become a pop sensation, while his last album, African Child, was described as the worst thing to happen to Africa since Apartheid. He is so far gone on drugs and alcohol that he doesn’t care about anything else in his life. Jonah Hill is Aaron Green, a low level employee at a record label run by Sergio Roma (Sean “P. Diddy” Combs), who has an idea. The following month will be the 10 year anniversary of Snow’s legendary performance at the Greek theater in L.A. – which inspired one of the best selling live albums of all time. His idea is to put on a show there again. Sergio agrees, and sends Aaron off to London to collector Snow, bring him to New York for an appearance on the Today Show, and then out to L.A. for the concert. What should be simple turns out to be horribly complicated.

The film has the Apatow stamp of approval on it, but somewhat refreshingly, this is not another story of an overgrown man child, who is saved by the love of a beautiful woman, who is reality, would never look at him. True, Aaron has a girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss), who is training to be a doctor, but her in no way saves Aaron. They are already in a committed, normal relationship when the movie opens – but of course a fight right before he is to go away puts their relationship in doubt. On Aldous’ part, he still thinks he is in love with Jackie, but in reality, he is so far gone on drugs that he doesn’t love anything except drugs. But in a strange way, these two save each other.

The movie stars off with a bang – an Entertainment Tonight segment on the set of Snow’s African Child video, which struck me, and apparently everyone in the movie as well, as horribly offensive and racist – but is also hilarious. The key to this song, as with all the other songs in the movie, is that they sound close enough to reality that we can accept them as real songs, by real artists, but they are made ridiculous by the lyrics, which are over the top and hilarious. The film then details Snow’s break up with his wife, and his years of hard living through a series of magazine covers and video clips (in which people as varied as Pink and Christina Aguilera poke fun of themselves wonderfully). I loved this opening segment, and the fun never really stopped from then on. The wonderfully awkward first meeting between Snow and Aaron, the wild night of partying in London, which doesn’t seem all that fun. The horrible appearance on the Today Show. In these early scenes, the jokes come fast and furious (there is actually a great 2 Fast 2 Furious joke when they get to Vegas now that I think about it), but writer/director Nicholas Stoller is actually doing something a little more complex here. He is building the characters through these early scenes, so that as the movie progresses, you actually grow to care about these two guys and their problems. Yes, the movie is littered with ridiculous situations, but Snow is a rock star, who to steal a line from the upcoming The A-Team, specializes in the ridiculous. You believe that these two would actually be everywhere they are.

The key to the movie is the performances. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Brand proved that he could be hilarious in a supporting role. There was no depth to Snow in that film – he was a caricature of the over the top rock star, and Brand played it remarkably well. Here, asked to take that caricature and make a real person out of him, Brand succeeds marvelously. I have no doubt now that if they do actually go ahead with the planned Arthur remake with him in the lead role, that he can match Dudley Moore. Not to be outdone, Jonah Hill is given what is easily the best role of his career so far. In films like Superbad, Hill has proven that he can be funny, and belt out one liners with the best of them. But here, like Brand, his character is deeper and more mature. He acts very much like a guy who thinks his girlfriend just dumped him would act. He idolizes Snow, but soon begins to see the reality of his situation as well. Along with the one liners, and the puke jokes, there is some real self loathing going on in this movie.

Director Nicholas Stoller is still developing. This is his second film after Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and he still doesn’t quite have the chops of Apatow himself, or the best of the directors associated with him. But he’s getting better, and there are fewer missed opportunities here than there were in the first film. Get Him to the Greek is perhaps the funniest movie of the year so far.

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