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Russell Brand, Jonah Hill Rock in Very Funny ‘Get Him to the Greek’

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CHICAGO – Taking a character who was created as an obnoxious supporting one and giving him his own spin-off movie sounds like a recipe for disaster. Despite generally liking its stars and enjoying “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” I was dreading the quasi-sequel “Get Him to the Greek”. There were just too many screenwriting pitfalls in which the film could have and should have fallen in. The fact that writer/director Nicholas Stoller hilariously walks the tightrope and falls into none of them makes “Greek” one of the most surprisingly enjoyable and consistent comedies of the year.

Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) was once the biggest rock and roll star in the world. He sold out shows and kept tabloids in business with his headline-grabbing relationship with pop star girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne). Aldous and Jackie made the mistake of taking themselves too seriously by making a single called “African Child,” notoriously called “the worst thing to happen to Africa since apartheid,” and it totally destroyed Snow’s career. As his star fell, Jackie moved on and Aldous was left with nothing but booze, groupies, and drugs to keep him in the public eye.

Get Him to the Greek
Get Him to the Greek
Photo credit: Glen Wilson/Universal

Years after Snow’s fall, a totally insane music exec named Sergio (Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs) is berating his staff into finding the next money-making project for a business in decline. Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) has stayed loyal to his childhood rock icon and suggests holding a ten-year anniversary concert for Snow’s legendary concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles as a way to boost sales of his back catalog and bring the last remaining rock star back to the spotlight.

With no better ideas, Sergio orders Aaron to fly to England, pick up Aldous, and serve as his chaperone across the pond and to the show. Of course, before he leaves town, Aaron gets into a fight with his girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men”), leaving him free to do a cannonball into the deep end of the rock and roll lifestyle.

And that’s exactly what Aaron does. One of the funniest things about Stoller’s script for “Get Him to the Greek” is how little time it wastes getting to the scenes of men behaving badly. With very little convincing, Aaron goes along for the rock star ride and is almost instantly drinking, drugging, and banging chicks in bathroom stalls. The remaining running time of “Get Him to the Greek” is basically about a young man being torn between his assigned duty of the title and having the most amazing few days of his life.

Get Him to the Greek
Get Him to the Greek
Photo credit: Glen Wilson/Universal

Believe it or not, I think there’s actually a subtle and clever commentary here about impending adulthood. It’s not a coincidence that the fight between Aaron and his girlfriend is about moving to Seattle and settling down. He’s clearly at a quarter-life crisis between immature youth and adulthood and who wouldn’t want to sow their oats one last time with the craziest rock star in the world?

“Get Him to the Greek” is a ‘hard R,’ a film with enough extreme gross-out humor that it could turn off viewers who think “The Hangover” went too far. The film features more drug use, drinking, and questionable behavior than fans of “Sarah Marshall” might be expecting. But it also has an effective and underplayed heart, something that may be surprising given the thin plot but shouldn’t be shocking when one considers previous films produced by Judd Apatow. “Greek” fits perfectly with films like “Knocked Up” and “Funny People” in that it’s about men at turning points between immaturity and adulthood.

Of course, the most important thing about “Get Him to the Greek” is that it’s damn, damn funny. Jonah Hill gives his best performance in years (until the even-better “Cyrus” opens in a few weeks, giving him a great summer one-two punch) and the whole cast gives their all for the laughs. Unpredictably great ensemble members like Combs, Moss, and Byrne display perfect comic timing, indicating that Stoller deserves a lot of credit for making the whole project click.

Ultimately, “Get Him to the Greek” proves that “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” was no fluke. Bringing back a character from a critically acclaimed debut was the kind of risk that could have damaged the reputation of both films. After seeing “Greek,” no one’s more surprised that I wouldn’t mind seeing Aldous Snow on the big screen yet again.

‘Get Him to the Greek’ stars Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Rose Byrne, Sean Combs, and Elisabeth Moss. It was written and directed by Nicholas Stoller. It opened on June 4th, 2010. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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