Get Him to the Greek
- Directed by Nicholas Stoller
- Written by Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel
- Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne and Sean Combs
- Classification: 14A
First things first: Relax, there is no full frontal Jonah Hill nude scene in Get Him to the Greek, a spin-off of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the 2008 comedy that established a new gold standard for male screen humiliation. Who can put aside that film's most famous sequence, where Sarah dumps boyfriend Peter just as he emerges from a shower, naked and stuttering - all dangling parts and participles.
Peter doesn't show up in the sequel, and Sarah makes only a brief appearance. Instead we get to hang with Forgetting Sarah Marshall's memorable secondary characters. Russell Brand returns as Aldous Snow, the always "on" British rock star. Stubbled beach ball Hill is also back and with a slightly better job. Last time he was a creepy bellhop; here he's Aaron Green, a star-worshipping music-industry underling.
Snow could certainly use some good PR help. The rocker is in tabloid hell: His latest single African Child backfires when he has a John Lennon-we're-bigger-than-Jesus moment, referring to himself as an "African white Christ from space." The New Musical Express calls the song the worst thing to happen to Africa since apartheid. Girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) dumps him on TV. Then Snow, who has been sober for seven years, drifts to a favourite hiding place: altered space.
Green wants to rescue his hero, and his boss (Sean Combs) sends the junior record executive to London. His orders: Bring Snow back, preferably sedated, to headline a comeback show at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.
What follows is often crazed fun. One scene has the rock star dribbling his beach-ball assistant through London nightclubs, finishing him off with a shot of 18th-century Paris absinthe that has the poor kid hearing the old Turtles' hit Happy Together in French.
Through all this, Snow is blissfully serene; the only sign of his pharmaceutical distress is a tongue that periodically escapes its moorings in search of skin salt.
Another funny, instructive sequence has the boys in an airplane that is almost as high as Snow. Aaron is frantic with worry - about the comeback tour, his angry boss and his angrier girlfriend (Elizabeth Moss) back home. Snow's advice, in short: Your life is too complicated. Me, I only have to worry about one thing: getting more drugs.
Like producer Judd Apatow's previous movies, from his own Knocked Up and Funny People to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek is preoccupied with matters of loyalty and ambition in a showbiz context. It's also cheerfully profane in the manner of a dormitory bull session.
And if the film doesn't quite have the resonance of Apatow's best work, it isn't the lead actors' fault. Hill is sweet in a way we've never seen. His innocence prompts the marauding Snow to slow down and think, lending charm and dramatic tension to what might have been a tediously eccentric comedy. Brand, meanwhile, is a one-man Spinal Tap with the faucet open wide. He's even funny walking, striding with shoulders flung back and head held high, posing for adoring fans and photographers even when they're not there.
What's missing in Get Him to the Greek are the supporting characters that made Forgetting Sarah Marshall so engaging. There are certainly no potential spin-off stories here. Sean Combs is a chore to watch as Aaron's blustery boss. And none of Snow's entourage, or Aaron's girlfriend, are much fun either.
If Aaron Green and Aldous Snow make any more rock 'n' roll history, here's hoping they show up with better sidemen.
Special to The Globe and Mail