Saturday, June 5, 2010

Get Him to the Greek

Comedy is perhaps the most subjective of all film genres. It's nearly impossible to create a film that is universally regarded as hilarious, so I would imagine filmmakers simply decide to make something that they themselves would find funny. I really enjoyed Nicholas Stoller's debut feature film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, so it stands to reason that I'd be excited for a spinoff featuring one of the funniest characters of that film, Russell Brand's eccentric rock star Aldous Snow. But can the British comedian-turned actor hold an entire film on his own?

Get Him to the Greek
Writer/Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Sean Combs, Elizabeth Moss

Aldous Snow (Brand) has fallen on some hard times since the release of his latest album "African Child," hailed by the press as "the worst thing to happen to Africa since apartheid." The bad reviews caused a rift with Snow's successful model/singer girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), so Snow has fallen off the wagon and returned to the drug-fueled escapades we saw in Sarah Marshall. Aaron Green (Hill) is a record company intern and a huge fan of Infant Sorrow, and pitches the idea for a reunion show to his boss, Sergio (Combs). Green is tasked with retrieving the eccentric rocker from England and getting him back to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in 72 hours.

Jason Segel is a co-producer on this film, but it lacks the charm and heart of Sarah Marshall, which Segel starred in and wrote. Stoller wrote and directed Get Him to the Greek and tries to recapture the sweetness that FSM had, but never quite achieves that goal. The characters aren't as endearing and the comedy isn't as organic. Even with a concept as ludicrous as a character going on a Hawaiian vacation and running into his ex-girlfriend at the same resort, Segel knew how to infuse Sarah Marshall with a reality that seemed believable and genuine; Get Him to the Greek plays like a gauntlet of events that the characters must barrel through to reach their final destination.

Sure, there are funny moments in this movie, and I'm not claiming that I didn't enjoy it. But the pacing was so unbalanced I found it jarring at some points. Aldous Snow in particular experienced instantaneously wild swings of emotion that felt unnatural and poorly set up. It was the type of thing you'd find in a poor romantic comedy: shifts in emotion that are unjustified except in their ability to superficially progress the story. The film also occasionally falls into the Apatow formula of crass humor for the sake of being crass, which is something that I personally don't find all that funny. Like I said, film is subjective.

To answer the question posed at the beginning of the review, I don't think Aldous Snow's character can hold an entire movie on his shoulders. Part of the reason everyone loved him in Sarah Marshall was because Segel knew how to show some restraint - by having Snow appear intermittently, the character's wild actions were fresh and unexpected. Here, the film highlights his exploits and loses some of the surprise factor that made him so funny the first time around. Jonah Hill, whom I normally don't care for, actually did some pretty good work here and played against type as the straight man to Snow's drug-addled rocker. But with a premise like this, I don't think the humor and drama ever found the right balance; the two leads deal with love interests and career choices in storylines that seem at odds with each other instead of complementing each other.

Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) was believable as Green's girlfriend Daphne, a nurse who works bizarre hours and wants to move the couple to Seattle so she can have better hours and spend more time with her boyfriend. They have a spat before Green takes off, and Daphne understandably doesn't take kindly to his philandering with Snow. I won't spoil it, but one of the film's most uncomfortable scenes involves her character evening the score after Green returns to Los Angeles. Rose Byrne was quietly effective as Jackie Q, Snow's ex-girlfriend. Her relationship with Aldous seemed to be the most realized of any on screen, and although I wish we could have seen a bit more of her, I appreciated the outcome of their situation.

Sean Combs was surprisingly funny as the overblown record executive, but the rest of the supporting cast was criminally underused. Comedians Aziz Ansari and Nick Kroll were featured in only one scene and easily could have been utilized in various points throughout the film. Kristen Bell's cameo was expectedly short but, as much as I love her, kind of uninspired. I appreciated the random appearance from Ricky Schroder (Poolhall Junkies), but thought they could have done a bit more with Bell's character.

I dug the first half of the film, but it fell apart in the third act with strained storyline conclusions and a pretty typical ending. The comedy also got weirder as the movie progressed, featuring a lot of "humor" revolving around Jonah Hill's rectum. Yeah, it was disturbing, and sometimes disturbing things are funny, but those sequences didn't do anything for me. I much preferred the "2 Fast 2 Furious" scene, with its non sequiturs and escalation that reminded me of that famous brawl in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy.

Get Him to the Greek lacks the soul of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but it's still worth a watch on DVD or Blu-ray when its released. It's relatively harmless, but didn't live up to my (admittedly too high) expectations. What did you think of it? Leave your comments below.

1 comment:

movie forums said...

It was the hilarious film of the year so far & I thought it will be a deadly hit like "The Hangover" was last year. I loved Russel Brand's character(superb performance) in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but I was bit confused to watch an entire movie based around the character.