Theatrical Review: GET HIM TO THE GREEK
Writers: Nicholas Stoller, Jason Segel (characters)
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Rose Byrne, Elisabeth Moss
Studio: Universal Pictures
Did you ever wonder what happened to FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL’s Aldous Snow after he took his yoga-flexible, alcohol-lubricated, leather-panted body off the island and back to, well, whatever it is that rock stars do? You’ll find out in short order within the first five minutes of Nicholas Stoller’s follow-up to his debut film, as the first five minutes of GET HIM TO THE GREEK track Snow’s fall from glory, typical as it may be, hilarious as it is. It’s everything that comes after that forms the meat of GREEK, but can the rest of the film sustain the glory of Aldous, the heart of rock and roll, and all those laughs that skinny minx provided us with in FORGETTING?
Snow’s life spiral has turned tabloid-ready. After his dalliance with Sarah (only briefly mentioned in a fun nod), Snow went back to his hard-partying ways in gay old London. That is, until he fell in love with pop star Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) and turned (gasp) monogamous. Well, sort of. Jackie and Aldous got sober together, had a kid, and were the world’s answer to a British Brangelina. Which is probably why they turned oh-so-slightly humanitarian, leading directly to Aldous’ Infant Sorrow to make an album dedicated to enlightening the world to the plight of Africa. To say it bombed is the understatement of the year. African Child is frequently referred to in the film not only as a musical holocaust, but as one of the worst things to happen to the entire African continent (just behind war and famine, but before apartheid). The failure of the album resulted in Jackie and Aldous falling off the wagon, falling out of love, and Aldous landing straight in the drunk gutter lifestyle recently populated by Amy Winehouse. How will he ever recover? Why, a ten year anniversary show at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles to celebrate Infant Sorrow’s biggest success! But how, pray tell, will he get there?
Enter Aaron Green (Jonah Hill). Don’t confuse him with the character Hill previously played in FORGETTING, the Snow-struck “Matthew the Waiter.” Aaron is a low-level executive type at Sergio Roma’s Pinnacle Records. Aaron is an idealist and a dreamer. He got into music because he loves it. He dreams up the anniversary show because he’s a fan of Snow, because he misses his work, because he wants to see him succeed. Aaron’s dreams do not necessarily fit in at Pinnacle, and don’t exactly line up with Sergio’s business philosophy, which seems to involve mindfucking everyone he can around him. To be sure, Sean Combs’ Sergio is an excellent, playful, and hilarious addition to the film. A fun combination of every record exec trope we’ve seen in movies before, all filtered through a decidedly Diddy lens gives us the true comedic magic the rest of the film so often misses the mark on.
Aaron is dispatched to London to get Snow, bring him across the pond to The Today Show for a live performance, followed swiftly with a jet over to Los Angeles for the actual show. Easy, right? Do you remember Snow? Hijinks ensue! Drugs! Women! Drinking! Vomit! Falling down! More drugs! More vomit! Airports! Hill and Brand are very good together on their journey to hell and back, but they’re not great. They have a nice chemistry, which oddly ends up being more effective and interesting when they’re playing with emotions, not just the giggles.
Of course, the film is often funny, but it rarely generates anything beyond surface chuckles and the odd gasp. Even the best sequence in the film (revolving around a debauchery-filled suite party in Vegas) isn’t necessarily ha-ha-he-he funny, but more a wide-eyed spectacle where you cannot believe the things that just happened have happened, and it’s only funny because you know it’s supposed to be funny, and oh God this would be really terrifying if it actually happened to you.
But more than anything, the film suffers from a medley of uneven sins. There are a number of tonal shifts that could give the audience whiplash – which speaks more to the underlying issue of Aldous’ drug addictions and emotional problems than maybe they were meant to let on. About halfway through GREEK, it becomes glaringly obvious that Aldous is in deep, and it’s not exactly funny. There is a choppiness not only in the overall tone of the film, however, but also script cohesion and general editing. There are a number of scenes that feel mussed about, as if mere seconds of shots were lost, enough to make cuts seems weird, shaky, and sloppy. GREEK often feels rushed and unrefined, and not just because of some sort of gleeful giddiness, but because of shoddy craftsmanship.
At one point, the boys meet a fetching young lass named “Destiny” (so drunk, she pronounces it “Jestiny”). Destiny is a member of a Pussycat Dolls cover band – which is strangely enough how GET HIM TO THE GREEK feels on occasion. No, not like a PCD cover band (don’tcha!), but like a Judd Apatow cover band. The pieces are all there – the raunchiness, the sex, the drugs, the struggling heart underneath it all, but it’s not nearly deep enough to strike any real chords or to seal the film’s place in any sort of classic comedy pantheon. But for a summer popcorn flick? You could do much worse for yourself.
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