Get Him to the Greek: An Uneven Journey at Best

Comedy teams aren’t invented – they are nurtured. They derive from years of close association, built out of a near metaphysical bond that comes from spending too much time together, sharing the stage or the screen in endless hours of mutual admiration and a desire to entertain. So when Hollywood tries to concoct a humor partnership out of thin air, the results are almost always mediocre. It’s not for a lack of trying on the part of the performers. After all, they are hired for their talent and their implied satiric chemistry. Such is the case with British funny man Russell Brand and American FoA (‘Friend of Apatow’) Jonah Hill. First seen together in some uncomfortably hilarious moments in Jason Segal’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the two have been repaired (reprising almost the same roles) in the fun if uneven Get Him to the Greek. As awkward as that title is, the partnership and laughs are equally patchy.

Long over his Tinseltown girlfriend, Aldous Snow is just about to release his highly anticipated new album, African Child. Married to the equally high profile Jackie Q, the UK power couple are sitting at the top of the world pop charts. Then the LP drops…and bombs. Fast forward a few months and a sober Aldous is way off the wagon, his relationship with Ms. Q is over, he’s a tabloid disaster, and the CEO of his US record label, Sergio Roma is apoplectic. Losing money hand over fist, he has to find a way to revive the artist’s tail-spinning career. Enter well-meaning intern Aaron Green. A longtime fan of Snow’s, he has a great idea – have the musician play a ten-year anniversary concert at the Greek Theater in LA, the site of one of his greatest achievements. The only problem is, getting the man to the gig on time. Green has 72 hours to transport the arrogant, drug taking sod from his London apartment to the West Coast – and with Aldous Snow, there are no guarantees…or cooperation.

When Get Him to the Greek rides high, meaning when it is banging on all six comedy cylinders, it is a raucous, rowdy good time. Writer/director Nicholas Stoller (who helmed the first Sarah Marshall meeting between Brand and Hill) really understands the value of his actors and let’s them do what they do best. While the blend of humor is difficult in a purposeful piecemeal manner – British conceptual vs. American gross out, to over-generalize – the ability of Brand and Hill to hold their own against the other is phenomenal. Neither overwhelms the film with his specific personality, allowing the various elements to gel in a manner that makes for frequently outrageous outbursts. Indeed, there is a specific sequence toward the end of the film involving a Las Vegas hotel suite, an impromptu party gone gonzo, a drug called “Jeffrey”, fur all covering, and more physical slapstick shtick than in a dozen Hangover knockoffs, that is so satisfying, so brilliantly over the top, that it sells you on everything Get Him to the Greek is offering.

It also indicates how, sometimes, the storyline strays too far away from the silliness. As with many Apatow-produced bro-efforts, Stoller tries to imbue his characters with emotional heft and complicated backstories. Hill is holed up with a novice doctor gal pal who is thinking about moving herself – and her life – to Seattle. She thinks Aaron will automatically acquiesce, and when he doesn’t, she drops the break-up bombshell. For Snow, the story is even more discombobulated. His relationship with Ms. Q was fueled by farce and full bore debauchery. Then they both give it up to play sober. Then she sinks back into the bottle (liquor and pills) and leaves him when he won’t do the same. Then he does. Huh? If it all sounds like a bad soap opera spinning out of control, you’d be right – and we haven’t even mentioned the precocious little boy who may (or may not) be Aldous’ son. Get Him to the Greek frequently sacrifices snickers to concentrate solely on these kitchen sink contrivances. Instead of adding gravitas to the film, they frequently halt it’s insane gusto.

Luckily, the lapses are few and far between. For the most part, Stoller sets up scenarios (Aaron drinking and doing all the drugs in the limo to keep Aldous straight for a Today show appearance) and then lets his company combust. The results are ridiculous, vile, unfiltered – and very, very amusing. Similarly, there is sensational supporting work from such heretofore unknown comedy powerhouses as Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Rose Byrne, Lars Ulrich, and a bevy of show-stopping cameos. Aldous’ career exists in the real world, and he interacts with many well known figures in popular music – which brings us to the songs. Brand is a brilliant stage performer, part Mick Jagger, part Justin Hawkins from The Darkness. You really believe he is a rock god in semi-retirement, the lameness of the terrible tune “Africa Child” arguing for his true gifts as a fiery frontman. The material he is given, while not on the same level as the genius Dracula showtunes in Sarah Marshall, are still magnificent. They will have you tapping your toes and snapping your fingers while you smile at the snide lyrics.

Still, one can’t help but feel that there is a better, more consistent version of Get Him to the Greek waiting out there, an edition which balances everything out – the sentiment and the salaciousness – flawlessly. As it stands, this is an entertaining romp that can’t quite muster up the majesty to rank with the classics of the comedic genre. Sure, Russell Brand and Jonah Hill definitely represent a combination from the “not for everyone” school of casting and the off kilter meshing of UK and US styling frequently struggles to find an enjoyable equilibrium – and for his part, Stoller was stronger when he was dealing with heartsick lovers amongst a Hawaiian paradise. While it might not be completely cavalier in its sex, drugs, and rock and roll leanings, Get Him to the Greek is still like a fine record. Not every track is a hit, but the best ones linger for a long time after.

RATING 6 / 10