Last year around this time, I played box office Nostradamus and said The Hangover was going to do huge numbers because of word-of-mouth advertising. Little did I know that it would surpass Beverly Hills Cop as the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time. With the raunchy comedy’s success it confirmed that in a season of sequels, reboots and family films dominated by CGI, there was still a spot for crude humor. Unfortunately, a year after The Hangover the good R-rated comedies are few and far between. And those that were good (She’s Out of My League) were bypassed by the masses. Get Him to the Greek and fictional rock idol Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) hope to change all that.
When we last saw Snow, as a supporting character in 2007’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he was just about to screw his limo driver on his way to the airport back to London. In this 2009 spin-off, the crazed rocker, once a megastar, has seen his status drop after his last album bombed. We’re talking Hiroshima levels. Nicholas Stoller’s decision to spin-off his comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall and focus on the character that’s most likely to drink, smoke, inject or sleep with anything in a ten-foot radius is both novel (how often do you see supporting characters in movies get their own movie?) and worrisome. Could an audience really stomach 100 minutes of Aldous Snow? The answer: yes.
The key ingredient to all comedies is being able to elicit laughs. But a stronger component is a comedy’s quotability. Quotability ultimately means replayability. Judd Apatow, who is to comedy what Jerry Bruckheimer is to action movies, has had a hand in making comedies that were funny and quotable. Either as a writer-director or producer, for a while there any property he touched was destined for success. That changed when his own comedy, Funny People, was too ambitious for its own good; he lost sight at what made for a great comedy.
Get Him to the Greek, for which Apatow’s role is producer, is pretty damn funny. So funny that it’s easy to miss the next few lines of dialogue because the sound will be drowned out by people laughing around you. Outside of the laughs, an element of humanity is had from rocker Aldous Snow. Where he was a one-note caricature in Sarah Marshall, he has developed into a more defined character in Greek. At times his caricature ways take over and the Aldous we know and love (loathe?) returns. But then there’s the Dr. Jekyll side where he does drugs to stifle his emotional pain, like losing the love of his life (Rose Byrne) to Napster’s greatest enemy, Lars Ulrich. With seemingly no one else in life, Snow bonds with Aaron (Jonah Hill), the record company suit that has volunteered to bring him to L.A.’s famed Greek Theatre for a reunion performance.
The storyline follows what is expected of a road comedy: an unlikely pair who gets into bizarre shenanigans before reaching their final destination. The setup: Aaron must fly to London, get the fallen rock star and deliver him to the Greek Theatre. The shenanigans: absinthe from the 1900s, a stop-over performance on the Today show, Vegas, strippers who pack something other than hot lead in their purses, and the stroking of soft fur.
Aside from Aaron and Snow’s story arc, Aaron also must deal with his girlfriend (Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss), a hospital intern, who wants to move to Seattle from Los Angeles. Their relationship causes some awkward moments in the pacing but the payoff is great in a later scene involving all three parties.
After the climax in Vegas, the comedy’s momentum slows down in the final act. Not to glacial proportions like Funny People, but it is noticeable. As for the cast, neither leads break new territory. Jonah Hill is still Jonah Hill, only now there’s more of him because he is a lead instead a supporting character. If you don’t like Hill, chances are his performance in Greek won’t change those opinions. And with Brand, it’s hard to differentiate where Russell Brand ends and Aldous Snow begins. Of the performances the biggest surprise is P. Diddy as Aaron’s boss. A rapper-cum-businessman the man has the skill for comedy. His early scenes with Hill are funny, but it is his involvement in the Vegas scene that makes him the comedy highlight. People will be playing that scene over and over again with friends.
Get Him to the Greek may not make you forget about Sarah Marshall, but it has the right mix of vulgar and laughs with a tinge of humanity to make it one of the better R-rated comedies.
Note: If you have seen the theatrical trailer there are at least eight jokes that didn’t make it into the film. Which leads me to expect a longer cut on DVD and Blu-ray with plenty of deleted and alternate scenes and maybe even a P. Diddy line-o-rama.
Director: Nicholas Stoller Notable Cast: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Sean Combs, Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne, Colm Meaney Writers: Nicholas Stoller, based on characters created by Jason Segel
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!