x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Get Him to the Greek

There are plenty of laughs to be had in Russell Brand and Jonah Hill's latest collaboration

Jonah Hill as Aaron Greenberg and Russell Brand as Aldous Snow in Universal Pictures' Get Him to the Greek.
Jonah Hill as Aaron Greenberg and Russell Brand as Aldous Snow in Universal Pictures' Get Him to the Greek.

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Starring: Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Sean 'P Diddy' Combs

****

Actors often take a bashing for playing characters that closely resemble themselves; as though drawing too much from experience is a bit like cheating. But for some reason, the recovering addict and notorious womaniser Russell Brand was given a free pass when it was announced he would reprise his role as the recovering addict and notorious womaniser Aldous Snow, first seen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Perhaps it was because audiences and critics agreed that his new twist on the old rock-star cliché was by far the funniest thing about the 2008 comedy, or maybe that Brand's off-screen life remains so fascinating that seeing it closely approximated on film is too appealing a proposition to miss.

The movie reunites the comedian with Jonah Hill, who plays Aaron Green, a junior executive at a struggling record label, (a very different character from the sycophantic hotel worker he depicted in Sarah Marshall). Desperate to impress his boss Sergio (Sean "P Diddy" Combs), Green suggests bringing the British rocker Snow out of retirement to play an anniversary concert at Los Angeles' Greek Theatre.

Snow's career has been in the doldrums since releasing the album "African Child"; described as "the worst thing to happen to Africa since apartheid". But a successful comeback gig could not only improve his fortunes, but those of the record label and the ambitious Green. The only problem: the infamous rocker has fallen off the wagon after a highly publicised break-up with his girlfriend, (played by Rose Byrne). Clearly besotted by his musical hero, Green has only 72 hours to get him from London to Los Angeles.

The film really only has one gag: that of the audience surrogate Hill struggling to keep up with Snow's relentless partying (including stops in New York and Las Vegas), and being forced to degrade himself more and more to achieve his aim. But despite its repetitiveness, Brand and Hill's onscreen chemistry carries the comedy through what would otherwise be a jarring succession of debauched get-togethers. The sequence in Las Vegas is the film's crowning moment, thanks to Combs' hilarious performance as the seasoned label boss who is the only man capable of standing up to Snow.

The writer/director Nicholas Stoller gives the film plenty of pace and thankfully doesn't linger too long on the inevitable "I've learnt something about myself" moment, towards the end. Produced by one of contemporary cinema's muckiest minds, Judd Apatow, (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) Get Him to the Greek has moments that are reliably obscene, but the movie somehow feels less juvenile than most of his previous projects.

Although Brand has plenty of hilarious lines and sizzles with energy every second he is on screen, his character becomes more insufferable as the film progresses - which seems to have been the opposite of what was intended. While he was clearly born to play Snow, one can't help feeling that he is capable of something more.

Considering the short gestation period between Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, the movie could have been a disaster. However a succession of fine comic performances, hilariously shocking situations and a refreshingly unsanctimonious look at rock'n'roll excess manages to yield as many laughs as any other comedy of the year so far.