Get Him to the Greek
Raunch ’n’ roll: Apatow’s ‘Get Him to the Greek’ is rude, crude, and good for some laughs
These days it’s not summer until the first Judd Apatow production turns up. This year’s model is “Get Him to the Greek,’’ a raucous, rowdy good time that betrays its corporate rock ’n’ and roll heart by going soft in the last half-hour. But if the movie’s all too predictable in its broad outlines, it’s scurrilously funny in the details, and it pushes its two leads and one of its supporting actors in entertainingly fresh directions. For early June, that’s enough.
“Greek’’ is also a sequel, of sorts. In 2008’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,’’ Russell Brand, the lanky, loose-jawed bad boy of British tabloids, played the role of Aldous Snow, a lanky, loose-jawed bad boy of British rock. Brand was so unexpectedly hilarious — to US audiences, anyway — that his character has been turned up to 11 for this film, written and directed by “Marshall’’ helmer Nicholas Stoller.
Aldous is in a pickle. His latest single, a hugely misconceived act of rock-star charity-mongering called “African Child,’’ has been called “the worst thing to happen to Africa since apartheid.’’ His wife, a bubbleheaded pop star named Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) — Lady Gaga without the good taste — has left him and seen her career soar. He has fallen spectacularly off the wagon into a mountain of pharmaceuticals. What to do?
Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) has the solution. A longtime Snow fan and low-level flunky at Pinnacle Records, he convinces his boss Sergio (Sean Combs) to arrange a concert at LA’s Greek Theatre, the site of the rocker’s greatest triumph 10 years earlier. It’ll be broadcast internationally and preceded by a “Today’’ show appearance, and all Aaron has to do is baby-sit Aldous from London to New York to Los Angeles.
The movie thus plays as the collision of two cartoon characters: Hapless fatty meets wily beanpole, or Abbott and Costello get Tourette’s syndrome and a trunk full of drugs. This marks the first time Hill has been asked to carry a movie, and the actor tones down the antic loudmouth shtick from films like “Superbad.’’ He even gets a girlfriend, a chirpy medical student named Daphne (Elisabeth Moss) whose hours are driving him crazy with loneliness and sexual frustration.
In any event, Aldous is the anarchic pleasure principle of this duo, and most of the fun in “Get Him to the Greek’’ consists of watching the absurdly charismatic Snow seduce Aaron into one outstanding debauch after another. Most of the dialogue can’t be printed in a family newspaper but Brand’s tone really is something special: Aldous wheedles and chides, lazily talking Aaron into, say, putting a balloon full of heroin into a particular body cavity in partial view of airport security. Above all, Aldous is, or sounds, logical. Scolded for his recreational drug use, he patiently insists, “It’s not recreational — it’s not meant to be a hobby.’’
The specific events in “Get Him to the Greek’’ aren’t very important. The fun, while it lasts, is in the finely tuned timing and the way the movie keeps popping out surprise guests playing themselves. This is the last place I’d expect to find economist Paul Krugman or Metallica drummer/heavy-metal neurotic Lars Ulrich, but here they are, one in the “Today’’ show green room and the other in Jackie Q’s bed.
The genuine surprise is Combs. Who’d have guessed: P. Diddy steals a movie! What begins as a smallish guest role — a supremely vulgar record-label head cowing his minions while looking to “thicken the revenue stream’’ — keeps growing until Sergio has become Aaron’s on-call guru in the care and feeding of infantile rock stars. The movie builds to a delirious high in which Aldous, Sergio, and the rocker’s seedy ex-manager father (Colm Meaney) try to violently psych each other out in a hotel suite that’s on fire, and you realize with a shock that Combs is the funniest person in the room.
“Get Him to the Greek’’ can’t help losing its groove after that. The final act plays it safe, raising and rejecting the possibility that sweet little Daphne might be randier than Aaron considered, and setting up a mushy brotherly redemption for the rocker and his minder. Which I guess is always the way of mainstream Hollywood, preaching rawk ’n’ roll rebellion before tucking audiences and their morals back into bed. I still say a dull Aldous Snow serves no earthly purpose. We already have Bono.
Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.