There is a moment about an hour into the new Nicholas Stoller comedy, Get Him to the Greek, where the film’s stars, Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, emerge running from a Las Vegas hotel in glorious slow motion. The image is almost Scorsesian and would have fit perfectly in Goodfellas had that film been about a drug-addled rock star instead of a drug-addled mobster. As they race from the building, Brand is wearing a Cheshire Cat grin that encapsulates the joy and chaos of the situation while also embodying the entire spirit of the film. It is a near perfect moment and the exact point in which I fell in love with Get Him to the Greek.
The R-rated comedy tells the story of an up-and-coming record executive, Aaron Green (Hill), tasked with transporting aging rock star Aldous Snow (Brand) from London to Los Angeles for a huge concert at the Greek Theater (hence the title). When given the opportunity to wrangle Snow by his boss, Sergio Roma (Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs), Green isn’t worried because he has three days to safely bring him back. Of course, it won’t be that easy.
Green arrives in London to find Snow in the midst of a drug bender caused by a recent break up with his longtime girlfriend Jackie Q. (Rose Byrne). Thus any attempts to focus the situation or accomplish anything (like getting Snow on an airplane) are met with nothing but childish resistance. The pair eventually begins their travel west, but their trek is hindered by stop-offs in New York and Las Vegas mixed with brief abuses of one hundred-year-old Absinthe and the consumption of some bizarre drug concoction referred to as a “Jeffrey.” As time ticks down, friendships are formed, issues are discovered, and vomit is discharged. None of which matters as long as the great Aldous Snow gets to the gig in time.
While hugely successful in his homeland of Great Britain, comedian Brand has been a tough sell here in the States. Up until now, he is best known for historically bombing twice as host of the MTV Music Video Awards and his supporting role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall where he originally played the character of Aldous Snow. With Greek, Brand is given an opportunity to take center stage and try, once again, to win over the American public. As a result, the film has an exigent sense to it; an underlying make-or-break urgency that somehow doesn’t come across as too needy. Like the career-launching Judd Apatow-produced comedies of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen, this exists to bring you on board with the rest of us and see Brand for what he truly is: a comedic punk genius that demands to be adored and admired.
The rest of the cast surrounding Brand lands the hard punches as well, making for a hell of a funny flick. Hill plays a great straight man, running near blind through Snow’s bungled and jumbled world. He portrays awkward moments with perfection and keeps the unorthodox plot developments grounded. There have been times in his past performances (Superbad and Funny People) when Hill was clearly improvising his lines, but here he sheds the overt appearance he’s ad-libbing and instead gives a solid, honest performance. Though Sean “P. Puff Diddy Daddy” Combs is absolutely awesome and owns more laugh-out-loud highlights than the rest of the cast.
Director Nicholas Stoller and Apatow make a great creative team. (Stoller found early work on Apatow’s short-lived television show “Undeclared” and later the two worked together on Sarah Marshall.) Acting as both co-writer (with Segel again) and director, Stoller’s greatest accomplishment here is placing us into the mad world of Aldous Snow, which presents the hard partying side of show business that we’d all like to experience. Apatow’s fingerprints are pretty apparent as well and all the characters become living, breathing people with real problems to overcome. Get Him to the Greek is a hilarious film with a heart and should do well in making Russell Brand the star that he already knows he is.
4 out of 5