Sorta-sequal lacks Sarah Marshalls' good-hearted charm.
Bad-boy British comedian Russell Brand made his long-delayed American breakthrough stealing every scene that wasn’t nailed down in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall. As self-regarding horndog rock star Aldous Snow, Brand mined blithe narcissism for massive laughs, adding a surprising streak of kindness to a character that in lesser hands might have been a cardboard scoundrel. But, let’s face it, a little of this guy goes a long way. If Hannibal Lecter couldn’t carry his own movie, what hope is there for Aldous Snow?
Appearances to the contrary, Nicholas Stoller’s Get Him to the Greek is not technically a sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Jonah Hill plays a different character this time around, and Snow’s backstory has been significantly rewritten. (As for poor Sarah Marshall, she’s forgotten again—literally. When encountering one of her TV commercials, Aldous can only vaguely remember having sex with her.) The biggest departure, though, is the tone. You won’t find the previous picture’s gentle, inclusive spirit here. Greek is defiantly unpleasant, aggressive and gross. It’s quite amusing at times, but an icky aftertaste lingers.
Jonah Hill co-stars as schlubby, put-upon record company staffer Aaron Green, who spends his days absorbing profane insults from his tyrannical boss (a monstrously funny P. Diddy) and tedious nights at home with his perpetually exhausted girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss.) She’s just decided without consulting him that they are moving to Seattle, but before he can even argue, Aaron gets the assignment of his dreams—babysitting his rock ’n’ roll idol Aldous Snow on a road trip from London to L.A. for a comeback concert at the Greek Theatre.
Snow’s legend has been tarnished as of late. His latest album, “African Child” was pasted by critics as “the worst thing to happen to Africa since Apartheid.” Greek opens with the title track’s video, a scathing send up of celebrity do-gooderism that will make Bono cringe. Aldous’ wife dumped him for Lars Ulrich, and he’s fallen off the wagon in spectacular fashion. Getting him to gigs on time ain’t as easy as it used to be.
So Hill’s admiring young Aaron finds himself in a drug-addled, sexually deviant remix of the great 1982 comedy My Favorite Year, in which Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers escorted a shitfaced Peter O’Toole around a live television shoot. Greek is a ramshackle collection of increasingly outré wastrel setpieces, revolving around booze, vomit, narcotics and ladies of questionable moral standards. Most scenes seem to feature some object or another being shoved up Jonah Hill’s ass, proving once again that anal penetration is to modern comedy what getting kicked in the balls was to the ’80s. (I sat through Greek and MacGruber back-to-back, and haven’t seen so much rear entry since the Crisco scene in Cruising.)
As the hapless company man, Jonah Hill tones down his trademark bluster and finds a nice little passive-aggressive groove. Brand once again brings the clueless smarm, but, predictably enough, Aldous Snow isn’t nearly as much fun in a leading role. Fleshing the character out with daddy issues isn’t enough to make us pity this poor millionaire rock star, with all of his drugs and women and adoring fans. Like most comedies from the Judd Apatow factory, Greek reverts to third-act sentimentality, complete with pat speeches extolling the values of sobriety and monogamy.
I’m usually a sucker for Apatow’s formula, but this time around I wasn’t buying it. As if over-determined to smash all the mainstream studio comedy boundaries pushed by The Hangover last year, Greek goes so far as to play even Aldous’ heroin addiction for giggles. The women in the film are all dim-bulb, slatternly receptacles (Carla Gallo—Period Girl from Superbad—outdoes herself as a Vegas skank with her pubes shaved in the shape of a microphone) except for Aaron’s over-idealized girlfriend, who is frankly kind of a monster.
Maybe it’s just because Moss can’t shake her weird Peggy Olson Mad Men vibe, but I’m still not sure how making Aaron watch Aldous go down on her is supposed to salvage their relationship. It’s another one of Greek’s “I can’t believe they went there!” moments that leave you wondering why they even went there in the first place.
Director: Nicholas Stoller.
Starring: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand.
Running time: 109 minutes.
It goes to some uncomfortable and eventually fucked-up places. Brody turns from skeptic to defender, only to develop more, ahem, carnal feelings as Dren grows more traditional lady parts.
The closest the film comes to conflict is when Carrie gets angry because her husband likes to put his feet on the couch and watch television.
These aren’t Will Ferrell's man-children. An ornery lot, they’re temperamental and prone to violence on people (within the first minutes, a guy gets stabbed in the throat with a broken bottle).
The doctors come off as complex human beings rather than untouchable martyrs. And the film reveals a depressing factoid amongst an already depressing subject: Even heroes can only be heroes for so long.
Let’s just say the scene in which Adrien Brody’s geneticist mates with the animal-human hybrid beastie he’s “fathered” isn’t the most messed-up cross-species sex act in the movie.
Neil Barsky’s "Koch" Keeps It Light