There is a quick and simple litmus test to tell whether or not you'll enjoy Get Him to the Greek. If you found Aldous Snow, Russell Brand's caricature of a rock star, to be one of the funnier elements of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, then you will no doubt have a riot with the increased raunchiness his character once again brings to the screen for director Nicholas Stoller. If, for whatever reason, you find Brand's larger-than-life presence to be as insufferable as the real rock stars he's lampooning, chances are good his spin-off film will do little to convince you there's more to him than just an outrageous persona. Get Him to the Greek is exactly what the trailers advertise: Aldous Snow turned to 11.
The record company Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) works for is taking a beating in the recession. In an attempt to turn business around, Aaron's boss, Sergio (Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs), agrees to go ahead with Aaron's suggestion to put on a massive concert marking Aldous Snow's band's ten-year anniversary at the Greek theater in Los Angeles. Trouble is, the eccentric lead singer of Infant Sorrow is half-way around the world in London. Aaron must then fly to the UK just days before the concert is set to take place and escort the easily distracted rocker back to LA in time for the show. Aldous, who could care less about the concert, is far more interested in forcing his new pet Aaron out of his timid shell. Hilarity ensues.
That may sound mocking, but it's not. Get Him to the Greek's plot may be a feature film version of a sitcom, but it's also the first film of 2010 that's left me breathless from laughing too hard. Jonah Hill and Russell Brand have an enormous reservoir of chemistry together and every scenario the two are written into, almost all of which revolve around Brand's perpetual quest for drugs, pays off with raucous, R-rated (but not gratuitous) glory. So, provided you actually enjoy Aldous Snow, there's no denying that the film will have you convulsing with laughter throughout its brisk running time. At 109 minutes, Greek is one of the shorter films that bears Judd Apatow's name as a producer. It also happens to be one of the most unique titles amongst that roster. Unfortunately, that's not exclusively a compliment.
Whether you've actually liked the steady stream of Apatow Productions that have been pouring forth from Hollywood over the last few years or not, it's hard to ignore that their films have been about story first and characters/stars second. Get Him to the Greek feels like the first and only film the outfit has made that was devised from the ground up solely so Russell Brand could have his own wacky film. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with that - I think he has more to offer the character and can definitely carry a film on his shoulders if need be - there is such a diaphanous connection stringing together all of the crazy things Aldous and Aaron find themselves doing that it becomes quite clear this was a situation of "We have this great character, what absurdities can we write him into?" and not the more ideal "We have this great story to tell, how can we fit Aldous Snow into it?".
That's kind of a shame, too, because one gets the impression that Nicholas Stoller's script is a draft or two away from figuring out how to make the deadline of the concert something integral to the story and not just an occasionally ticking countdown clock. It's obvious that a majority of the film's jokes are largely improvised, yet the more dramatic, mandatory-for-plot scenes, the best of which involve Aaron's relationship with his recently estranged girlfriend (played by the adorable and immensely empathetic Elisabeth Moss) and Aldous' relationship with his own ex (Rose Byrne), are heavily scripted. That said, I'll take a few tonally incongruous diversions from a torrent of drug and sex gags if it allows the actors to play to their improv strengths elsewhere in the film.
Whoever knew Sean Combs was this funny and still waited this long to give him more than just a stunt casting cameo is a selfish jerk. One expects the film's two main stars to be on the top of their game, but you don't expect them to be outshone by a rapper turned occasional actor. Yet Combs earns some of the biggest laughs. Fortunately for the audience, his studio executive role is more prevalent than the cameo the trailers suggest and, thanks to an impromptu Vegas detour Sergio makes with Aaron and Aldous, I now have a new favorite hotel-room-out-of-control scene to play alongside Robert Rodriguez's "The Misbehavers" segment of Four Rooms.
Thanks to the heart both Hill and Brand give their respective characters, loose plotting is far from a deal breaker, but it is what prevents Get Him to the Greek from rising to the heights of The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, two films that are as emotionally rewarding as they are hilarious. But if the biggest complaint I can register against a movie that only exists to make you laugh until your ribs ache is "it's funnier than it is touching", that's not exactly total damnation.