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From the DVD Shelf: Josh reviews Get Him To The Greek

I’m a big, big fan of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  That film really took me by surprise — it’s a very, very funny film, but also one that is remarkably endearing.

The breakout star of the film was, of course, Russell Brand’s rock star Aldous Snow.  Snow was a delirously lunatic creation — a jovial, high-life-living, self-absorbed maniac of a musician who stole every scene of the movie that he was in.  Many of those scenes co-stared Jonah Hill, who had a small role as a hapless waiter who idolized Aldous.

Get Him to the Greek is a feature-length attempt to recapture the energy of Mr. Brand and Mr. Hill’s interactions in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Russell Brand repises his role of Aldous Snow, while Mr. Hill portrays a new character: Aaron Green, a young music executive.  Aaron has come up with an idea for Pinnacle Records, the company at which he works: in an attempt to revitalize Aldous Snow’s career, and their flagging record sales, they’ll schedule a concert at the Greek Theater in LA on the ten-year anniversary of Aldous’ previous triumphant performance at that venue.  All that Aaron needs to do is to ensure that the hard-living musician arrives at the theater on time to perform.

It’s a familiar set-up, and one can see the road-map for the film’s story a mile away.  Clearly, Aaron is going to have a lot of frustrating moments trying to keep Aldous en route to the theater, and one can also reasonably expect the straight-laced Aaron to be tempted and perhaps at first overwhelmed by the singer’s partying lifestyle.  Perhaps Aldous might also learn some lessons in responsibility from Aaron.

And that, in a nutshell, is the movie.  So don’t expect Get Him to the Greek to turn any comedy film tropes on their ear.  Nevertheless, I was quite taken by the film’s relentlessly entertaining nature.  Director and co-writer Nicholas Stoller has assembled some amazing comedic performers, and he pretty much lets them all cut loose and bounce off of one another for the duration of the film.  There are plenty of scenes that seem to go one for longer than they should, and plenty of scenes that don’t really serve much of a purpose in the film’s story.  But I didn’t mind terribly, because it’s a lot of fun watching these characters interact with one another, and I enjoyed the time we got to spend in their world.

Brand and Hill are reliably hilarious.  For me the biggest surprise was Rose Byrne, who knocks it out of the park as Aldous’ former musical partner and lover Jackie Q, who is now living with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich (who ahas a very funny small role in the film).  Jackie Q has her own unique brand of craziness that is a perfect match for Aldous.  The scenes between the two of them are some of my favorite moments in the film.  Ms. Byrne is also fearlessly profane — she gets some of the film’s most envelope-pushing (and also most hilarious) moments.  (Her song Supertight is uproarious!)  I remember that Sean (P.Diddy) Combs got a lot of attention, upon this film’s release, for his comedic performance, and he wasn’t oversold.  Combs brings a manic intensity to his role as Aaron’s boss at Pinnacle Records, Sergio.  He’s lovable and scary all at the same time, and Combs eats up all of his moments on screen.

Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, The West Wing) has a pretty thankless role as Aaron’s girlfriend who breaks up with him at the start of the movie, but I still commend her for bringing some distinct quirky mannerisms to her character, Daphne.  I love the unflappable way in which she deals with Aldous towards the end of the film.  Lots of other fun, familiar faces pop up in small roles, like Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation), Nick Kroll, and Ellie Kemper (Erin from The Office) as Aaron’s co-workers.

I loved seeing the great Colm Meaney (Miles O’Brien from Star Trek: The Next Generation & Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as Aldous’ father, Jonathan Snow, though I didn’t think the attempt to flesh out Aldous’ character by showing us his complicated relationship with his father was all that successful.  Mr. Meaney and Mr. Brand have a solid chemistry and share some really funny moments together, but I just wasn’t all that interested in this glimpse into Aldous’ home life.  I don’t really need to know WHY Aldous is the way he is (just as, say, I didn’t really need to see the tragic back-story that Tim Burton gave to Willy Wonka in his film from a few years back), and in some ways that backstory makes Aldous more of a sad, pathetic figure — which makes it a bit harder to enjoy his antics.

But the weirdest narrative left-turn of the film comes in the Chasing Amy scene between Aldous, Aaron, and Daphne in the film’s third act.  Anyone who has seen Chasing Amy knows exactly what scene I’m talking about, when the yuks stop and suddenly Ben Affleck’s character is making an out-of-left-field proposal (at least it seemed out-of-left-field to me) to Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee’s characters.  I was not expecting that development in Get Him to the Greek any more than I was in Chasing Amy!  I’m not sure how I feel about that plot twist — I think the audience’s laughs turn rather uncomfortable — but I commend the filmmakers for really going for it.

The best part of Get Him to the Greek is the music.  In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, we got to hear a couple of Aldous Snow’s explicit and idiotic rock songs, and they were a highlight of the film.  Well, Get Him to the Greek doesn’t skimp on this end — the film is filled with tons of new Aldous songs, and they are dynamite.  Watching the special features, I was bowled over by the effort that all of the writers, musicians, actors, and others put into creating the music for the film.  The songs are really, really funny — but also quite successful at being realistically good rock and roll songs!  The effort put into the music truly elevates the film overall, in my mind.  I had a similar reaction to Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.  The amazing fake songs created for the film are the main reason to revisit Walk Hard — and I actually have the Walk Hard soundtrack on my ipod.  It’s incredible, and I listen to it way more often than I re-watch the film.  After seeing Get Him to the Greek, I immediately downloaded the soundtrack, and I suspect the same thing will be the case.  The music is really terrific.  (And very NSFW.)

Get Him to the Greek is not a comedic masterpiece, and I don’t think it’s nearly as successful over-all as was Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  But it’s a fun film with great music that was clearly made with a lot of joy.  One could do a lot worse.

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