The British comedian Russell Brand's mercurial screen presence walked off with 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall. With his unruly hair, thick eyebrows and lanky frame (he resembles an anorexic caveman), Brand offered a mixture of naughtiness and innocence missing from modern film-comedy stars increasingly geared toward family-friendly vehicles.
Brand is set to star in a number of upcoming productions, including a remake of Arthur with Greta Gerwig. His first such vehicle is Get Him to the Greek, where he reprises his Sarah Marshall role as rock star Aldous Snow for Sarah Marshall director Nick Stoller and producer Judd Apatow. Greek is half of a great comedy, though perhaps some of its biggest laughs come not from its rock star protagonist but from a real-life musician.
Get Him to the Greek features Jonah Hill as Aaron Green (a different role from Hill's appearance in Sarah Marshall, though that film is referenced), an enthusiastic young record company employee who impulsively suggests the way to revive his company's sagging fortunes is to get Snow to play an anniversary of a famous concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Snow has fallen off the wagon hard since doing an African-themed album deemed the worst thing to happen to the country since apartheid and being dumped by his longtime girlfriend, pop tart Jackie Q (Rose Byrne from Adam and TV's Damages). Hijinks, as they say, ensue over the three-day trip back to LA, involving many drugs, loose women, family issues and a misunderstanding with an adrenaline needle.
Get Him to the Greek's first half is a bit creaky—there's little reason to care about the ticking clock until the concert, and Aaron's relationship with his doctor girlfriend (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss) falls into the increasingly annoying Apatow formula of a schlubby, immature guy arguing with a girl who's far too attractive for him. The second half, though, kicks into gear with a screamingly funny sequence involving the aforementioned adrenaline needle, a drug known as "Jeffrey" and Aaron's lunatic boss (hip-hop impresario Sean "P. Diddy" Combs).
This is a standard road-trip premise and the film knows it, with many of the best gags coming not from Aaron's corruption (Hill is best when he spews profanity, not when he's playing the straight man) but the moments where Aldous simply rambles about stardom, addiction or whatever else is on his mind. The character draws from some aspects of Brand's own troubled past (chronicled in his autobiography, My Booky Wook), and his moments of self-destruction are his most believable scenes.
The breakout here, though, is Combs, who nearly steals this film from Brand the way Brand stole Sarah Marshall from Jason Segel. Combs, who earned plaudits for past roles in Monster's Ball and A Raisin in the Sun, plays a record exec named Sergio who has some wonderfully profane monologues about dealing with talent and is correctly inserted into the main action for the Las Vegas sequence. Get Him to the Greek lacks the emotional edge that characterizes the best Apatow-produced comedies, though it's still a very crude, very funny romp that shows Russell Brand can carry a movie. Still, it's tempting to see what Apatow could do with more Diddy in future films. Another spin-off, anyone?