"Get Him to the Greek" is Pure Judd Apatow: Crude on the Outside, Sweet in the Middle

There are myriad moments during Get Him to the Greek — the roller-coaster spinoff of Forgetting Sarah Marshall — when it feels as if the thing will jump the rails and smash to the ground in a thousand pieces of what-in-the-fuck. It's a complete and utter mess from the big-loud-dumb start to the awwww-that's-so-sweet finish. It's hardly a narrative at all, more like a loosely stitched-together hodgepodge of scenes starring the same characters as they hurl toward the titular venue but not before making myriad soused and sentimental pit stops along the way in London, New York, and Las Vegas — all in three days' time, tops.

Which is not to suggest it's not entertaining — far from it. Get Him to the Greek is a mess but an amiable and occasionally uproarious one due mostly to Russell Brand's reprising of his role as Aldous Snow. He is, or was in Sarah Marshall, the teetotaling frontman for Infant Sorrow, a sort of Spinal Tap redux best-known for its groupies (the Sorrow Suckers) and such hits as "Inside of You," "The Clap," "Gang of Lust," and "I Am Jesus." In Sarah Marshall, Aldous was the guest star in someone else's story — that of Peter Bretter (Jason Segel), whose TV-star girlfriend, Sarah (Kristen Bell), ran off with Aldous to Hawaii. But even in a bit part, Brand, a comic who already fancies himself a rocker, played Aldous with the smug self-righteousness of all rehabbed rockers way too quick to remind you they've swapped booze and dope for yoga and politics. And: He wore leather pants to the beach.

With Peter absent and Sarah reduced to a blink-and-you'll-miss-her throwaway gag, Aldous has moved center stage, just in front of the pyrotechnics. And initially, it seems like it could be too much of a good thing: Brand starts out at 11, playing Aldous like some arena-rock version of a Sacha Baron Cohen character. The first thing we see is a graphic, exploitative war-torn video for the Infant Sorrow song "African Child" set in "Darfur, Zimbabwe, Rwanda" — Aldous, new to cause-rock, isn't quite sure which. He compares himself to an "African white Christ from space"; others argue he's the worst thing to happen to race relations since apartheid.

Russell Brand as Aldous Snow:  "One of the last remaining rock stars."
Russell Brand as Aldous Snow: "One of the last remaining rock stars."

Details

Get Him to the Greek, starring Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Sean Combs, Elisabeth Moss, and Rose Byrne. Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller. 109 minutes. Rated R.

So off the wagon he goes — just in time for a lower-rung record-label lackey named Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) to pitch an Infant Sorrow comeback concert to his boss, Sergio (Sean Combs, never more Puff Daddy than here). Hill isn't reprising his Forgetting Sarah Marshall role — Matthew, the Hawaiian resort waiter with the creepy crush on Aldous. Aaron is a tempered version of Matthew (and, consequently, most of Hill's stable of outsized characters): He's still a fan (framed Infant Sorrow posters adorn his walls), but just a fan, not a stalker with a demo disc. He's well-adjusted enough to even have a cute-'n'-cuddly relationship with a nurse played by Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss. Aaron simply believes a label in need of a boost could do no better than resurrecting Snow — "one of the last remaining rock stars," says Aaron, to whom Aldous is Robert Plant and Keith Richards rolled into one big ball of facial hair.

Sergio dispatches Aaron to retrieve Aldous, with the instructions to "mind-fuck" him into staying straight and getting on the plane and to the Today show first, followed by the gig at the Greek. Things, of course, don't go as planned — at which point, writer/director Nicholas Stoller, responsible for Sarah Marshall, turns Get Him to the Greek into a desperately demented version of Cameron Crowe's buzzed-on-nostalgia autobiography Almost Famous — by which I mean, instead of a scruffy Lester Bangs hanging around to mentor a shy naïf, you'll find instead an out-of-control Puff Daddy who shows up in hallucinations to eat his own head and later demands Aaron have sex with a woman who will eventually rape him with her spare dildo. It's a whole different flavor of coming-of-age movie.

Judd Apatow is the producer — can't you just smell the man-on-man love affair from here? Sooner than later, Aaron's girlfriend drops out of the picture, which leaves Aaron free to live the rock 'n' roll lifestyle with Aldous, who, it turns out, has little stomach left for the decadence, a sentiment that rubs off on Aaron, along with several other stickier substances. Joints and women will be shared; lessons will be learned. Hey, this is an Apatow film, all right: the stoner movie that eventually turns into a just-say-no PSA. Now, group hug! — or threesome, in this movie's case.

That's what Get Him to the Greek ultimately has going for it: It's crude, loud, dumb fun. And, on top of that, it contains the greatest cameo ever by a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

 
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