Saturday, June 5, 2010

Get Him to the Greek (2010)

Get Him to the Greek is Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s dirty rotten cousin.  It’s crude, disgusting, reckless and awkward.  It’s Almost Famous posing as your drunken uncle’s binge trip.  And it’s really, really funny.

  Written and directed by Sarah Marshall’s Nicholas Stoller, Greek isn’t a sequel so much as an abstract spin-off devoted to Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow persona, a cheesy British rock star fallen from the sobriety wagon into a deep, druggy abyss.  Jonah Hill plays Aaron Green, the eager young music biz employee Aldous is dragging down with him.  It was Aaron’s brainchild to stage a comeback concert for the disgraced Snow, and he’s got three days to make sure that happens.  It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and a misstep into a life he is in no way capable of living.

  At home, Aaron is the devoted, domesticated boyfriend to his live-in doctor girlfriend, Daphne (Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss).  He dreams of rainbows and music purity.  She dreams of a better gig in Seattle.  When these ideals collide, Aaron hits the road a scorned man, and a perfect target for Aldous’ destructive rock-storm. 

  Aldous, like so many clichéd rock icons, is a lonely soul looking for love and trying to hide it.  The crux of the story is that he finds that love in Aaron, and thus Greek follows a hilarious but familiar rom-com structure that pretty well mirrors what you’d expect rock fandom meeting rock reality to be – it’s beautiful, then it quickly gets very, very messy.  And because this is a brom-com, it also becomes very, very emo.  Each man is damaged, in need of repair.  This movie is here to repair them, albeit in a prism of obscenity.

  As he did with Marshall, Stoller keeps things as minimalist and subtle as possible, even when dealing with rock obsessive.  His particular brand of comedy plays on subtlety – it’s the quiet funny moments that get the biggest laughs.  It makes the more outlandish moments seem balanced, and allows them to hit harder. 

  At the same time, it allows for some boring moments, fluttering scenes or stretches that appear to be moving forward on the hope that something funny will happen, instead of making the funny happen.  Greek rarely feels forced, but quite often feels lackadaisical. At 109 minutes, Stoller’s film feels a little too long, which is odd because in the beginning I was hoping it would go on forever.  This attests to the film’s tendency towards fits and starts, and occasional lack of direction.

  It can also be a bit annoying.  Rose Byrne (Damages) plays a Lady-Gaga like singer so dirty and cloying it’s depressing to watch the actress struggle through it.  The same can be said of the faux-songs the film forces upon its actors, songs that are so bad they’re good, but that also occasionally are just really, really bad. 

  Still, the players are too good and too funny to be bogged down.  Aldous is a bonefied nut, and Brand plays him with an erie comfort. Funky and fanatical, you can see why this guy got his own movie.  And yet, Greek still isn’t his film.  It’s Hill who carries it.  With Brand chewing up much of the wild card comedic scenery, Hill, for once, plays the straight man.  Aldous dubs him an “affable nitwit”, and the title fits him like one of the many too-tight Ts struggling to escape Hill’s increasingly rotund figure.  Hill manages to make a dangerously pathetic character empathetic, mostly by underplaying the drama, which is a refreshing change for him.

  Sean “P. Diddy” Combs is the real surprise here as Sergio, an industry mogul with deadpan ridiculousness.  At one point Aaron receives an angry text message from his boss, which Diddy recites via shouting voiceover –“Where the fuck are you?  I’m gonna kill you!  Smiley face!”
 It’s one of many memorable moments in a film that is hit or miss (occasionally very big miss) but is also undeniably hilarious.

  This time last year, The Hangover was breaking records and reserving spots on DVD shelves across the country.  Get Him to the Greek isn’t as good or consistent (as the Hangover, OR Marshall) but it makes a good case for the DVD shelf position next door.
  Updated Summer Blockbuster Smackdown standings:
1.)   Iron Man 2
2.)   Get Him to the Greek
3.)   Prince of Persia
4.)   Shrek 4

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