Let’s get this sorted: Russell Brand is reprising the role of Aldous Snow from the charming if overlong Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In that movie he played the new beaux for the titular Sarah, and generally carried on like the pompous but affable rock star he was. Jonah Hill, who played Matthew the creepy waiter and aspiring musician in Marshall, is playing a new character named Aaron Green. Kristen Bell makes a cameo as Sarah Marshall. Nicholas Stoller, the director of Marshall, apparently saw something in the one brief but divine scene shared by Brand and Hill in that earlier work, and so he wrote and directed Get Him to the Greek and made those two guys the leads. Got it? Good, though none of that particularly matters except when Stoller occasionally insists that it does.
In Get Him to the Greek, Hill plays Aaron Green, a record label functionary tasked with getting the past-his-prime Snow from London to LA in 72 hours to play an anniversary concert that may revive his career and, not incidentally, his record label’s finances. Snow’s every bit the boozy, whim-driven rock star you’d imagine, and it actually works against Green that he’s a big fan of Snow—a big enough one to know that Snow’s last album was self-satisfied garbage. But Green’s got to get it right. His boss (Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, surprisingly hilarious) makes it clear that this is his moment to rise or fall.
It carries on from there with the usual assortment of speed bumps, what with Snow falling off the wagon after splitting up with his supermodel/pop star wife (Rose Byrne), his spiteful, mooching father, and a whole host of groupies, yes-men and various other enablers. Green’s just had a nasty split with his girlfriend so maybe he’ll… you know… indulge a little, himself. Can they get to the Greek Theater on time? Will Snow reconcile with his ex, his father, and his disastrous life choices? Gentle reader, I leave that to you to find out.
Get Him to the Greek rests somewhere in the “soft middle” of the past ten years of dude and dude-like comedies. It’s no classic like the greater Apatow works, doesn’t have the infinite replayability of lesser-but-still-inspired movies like Role Models, but it still retains some measure of intelligence and even a little reverence for music. Yes, for instance, that is “London Calling” you hear when Aaron lands in London. Cliché as hell, but at least it’s a live cut. Therein lies Get Him to the Greek’s appeal.
I’m not terribly familiar with Brand’s work pre-American comedies. I liked him fine in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and he surprisingly never gets tiresome here, but there’s only so much mileage you can get out of this kind of character. The ten to fifteen minutes of serious screen time he had in Marshall seemed like enough, so it was pleasantly surprising to see the work just as well at 110. But man, please: no more.
No, Jonah Hill is the real star here. I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty well over his “it’s funny because he’s yelling” shtick a la Superbad; his presence is vastly less grating when he does the clever, dry, put-upon guy thing. At a few points I honestly found myself wondering how good Hill would be in a drama. Perhaps that’s because one of his few solo excursions—when he goes off into Vegas to score some heroin for Snow—is far and away the funniest thing in the movie, due in large part to Hill’s strength as the straight man. Hill’s probably got the range of his taller, slimmer predecessor, Seth Rogan, but in these more understated roles I prefer his edge to Rogan’s exasperated meta-commentary.
Anyway. Get Him to the Greek is a serviceable comedy with some real talent on display and a decent handful of genuinely hysterical moments, but it lacks the innovation of many of its forebears. I won’t be buying the DVD or seeking out repeat viewings. But considering the film’s mainstream contemporaries, you could do a hell of a lot worse.