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Get Him to the Greek (2010)


The “him” of Nicholas Stoller’s Get Him to the Greek is Aldous Snow, the self-indulgent, demon-plagued, Brit-pop singer who prance-stumbled through 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall and stole the show. He’s once again played by Russell Brand, the self-indulgent, demon-plagued, Brit-pop comic, and that’s good. For without Brand’s innate ability to hijack a failing scene and drag it someplace funny, Greek would be pretty weak.

Though there’s a brief, hazy mention of Snow’s fling with TV actress Marshall (Kristen Bell, who cameos), Greek begins with our bad boy separated from his true love, Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), and numbing his emotional pain with drugs and drink. Like his love life, Snow’s singing career is in the toilet. His last release, “African Child,” was universally rejected, and his bitter father (the great Colm Meaney) has penned a profitable tell-all book besmirching his selfish son. Snow has one last hope at recapturing fame’s attention: an anniversary concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The main problem is getting him to the venue on time and in one piece.

That task falls to Aaron Green, a mild-mannered record label employee who suggested the concert and coincidentally happens to be Snow’s biggest fan. He’s played by Jonah Hill, who also adored Brand’s rocker in Sarah Marshall but dials back the obsession a few notches for this shabbily-cobbled-together jaunt. (While Hill isn’t playing the same character, he has retained that person’s mumble-comedy method of quietly, breathlessly muttering punch lines as if he were ashamed of their content. When did comedies decide it was a bad idea to have the audience hear the joke?) Ordered by his belligerent boss (Diddy, credited as Sean Combs) to accompany Snow from London to L.A., Green puts his life — including his fraying relationship with workaholic girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss) — on hold and plunges into a multi-day narcotics binge normally reserved for full-time rock ‘n’ rollers.

Therein lies the suspense of Greek. It’s basically a given that Snow will make it to the gig, but we do wonder if Green can survive the journey with his job, his relationship, and his bodily functions intact.

Stoller imagines a handful of obstacles he’d like to see Hill and Brand overcome along the way — a live performance at the “Today” show, a pit stop in Las Vegas, a potential threesome with Moss’s suddenly willing wallflower — but has no idea how to connect them in a reasonable manner. The premise can’t stretch enough to cover an entire film, so Stoller patches holes with shameless NBC/Universal plugs — Combs actually sings a short song about “The Biggest Loser,” cashing out the last of his remaining street cred — and summons picked-over emotional issues off the bench. Snow attempts a reconciliation with Jackie, Aaron makes sacrifices for Daphne, and we check our watches because Stoller never gave us enough time to care about these characters. Then it’s on to the next bar fight, or to the next shot of Hill puking up chunky vomit.

I wouldn’t want to imagine Greek without Brand, however. Whenever scenes grow stagnant (which is often), the unpredictable comedian reaches down into that deep reservoir of internal inspiration and somehow, against all odds, finds a laugh. “Nothing you say makes any sense,” Aaron screams at Aldous, and he’s right. But Brand’s own brand of performance mojo has a way of luring his talented co-stars along for the ride. You’ll notice how Greek coasts whenever Brand shares a scene with someone who’s capable of improvising along with him, such as Hill or Meaney. And when he doesn’t, it doesn’t.