With Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Colm Meaney, Elisabeth Moss, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Rated R for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language. 109 minutes.
GET HIM TO THE GREEK is a variation on the buddy road trip movie in which two characters travel together, have adventures – or misadventures – and end up better people at journey’s end. It is also the latest in a string of comedies in which outrageous vulgarity is combined with a touch of humanity and sentimentality, supposedly redeeming the bad behavior we’ve seen throughout the film. It worked for movies like “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” so there’s no reason to think audiences have yet tired of it.
Our buddies here are Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) and Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Aaron is a rock music fanboy who has lucked into a dream job for a record company headed by an egotistical boss (a surprisingly funny Sean “P. Diddy” Combs). His latest assignment is to collect Snow in London and bring him to L.A. for a concert. Snow is a burnt out hasbeen and his doing a live show at the scene of his greatest triumph (the Greek Theater) is Green’s idea. They both need for this to work, but the catch is that Snow doesn’t seem to care.
Part of the joke for audiences is that Brand played the same character in 2008’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” where he stole the movie as the addled rock star more focused on drugs and sex than anything else. Here he’s gets a larger canvas, with Brand’s deadpan delivery in the most outrageous situations being the best thing about the movie. Snow is all about impulsive behavior while Green is like an overwound watch. The plot requires Snow to learn some responsibility, especially towards other people, while Green has to relax and become more open.
It’s a pretty sturdy formula for a comedy if you have the right characters and a solid script, and that’s the problem. While there are certainly laughs here, there’s also a bit of oneupmanship going on among the makers of these over the top comedies as to who can be the grossest or most shocking. So this is a summer comedy that not only has drug use, but gags about heroin. There’s not only the usual sex jokes but a scene where Snow talks himself into a menage-a-trois with Green and his girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss). One has to wonder if this trend will ever reach a point where audiences recoil saying, “That’s not funny – that’s sick.”
Clearly, that hasn’t happened yet, and the broad comedy combined with the moments of redemption will undoubtedly have some hailing “Get Him To The Greek” as the feel-good movie of the summer. Not quite. However those who prefer their comedy raunchy and unsubtle will have a good time, while it will be left to curmudgeonly critics to wonder if Brand is a one-trick pony or he’s got something to offer beyond playing rock star burnouts.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.