It’s not every day that a movie performance is so funny and indelible it earns its own spin-off. In Get Him to the Greek, the flamboyant British actor-comedian Russell Brand resurrects his character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), a fantastically narcissistic and dissolute rock star named Aldous Snow. Aldous, like Brand himself, has a mop of tangly black hair, a saintly gaze, and an aristocratic love-me pout that combine to make him look like Jesus of East London. He’s a magnificent, rocky-horror wastrel. Aldous’ walk is somewhere between a slither and a lurch, and he talks in a Cockney singsong so cheerfully oblivious that, at first, you may think he’s Spinal Tap dim. Yet every word that spews out of Aldous’ head has its own uncanny egotistical logic. (”Don’t think of it as a threesome,” he explains to an overly cautious acquaintance. ”Think of it as having sex with your girlfriend, while someone else also has sex with your girlfriend.”)
Aaron, a lowly record company intern played by Jonah Hill, has 72 hours to shepherd Aldous from London to New York, where he is set to appear on Today, and then on to Los Angeles, where he’s scheduled to do a comeback concert at the Greek Theater on the 10th anniversary of his last, triumphant appearance there. If the gig is a success, he’ll dispel the stench of ”Africa’s Child,” his incredibly condescending bomb of a single that sent his career into a druggy tailspin. Get Him to the Greek has a conventional After Hours one-calamity-after-another setup. Except that the detours and disasters all grow directly out of Aldous’ personality, as he invites Aaron to share the live-for-the-moment excess of the rock-star lifestyle. The film’s director, Nicholas Stoller (who also helmed Forgetting Sarah Marshall), knows that the real pleasure of rock-star decadence isn’t just the drugs or the sex. It’s the hanging around — the doing whatever you want to do, right into the morning after. Dance-club marathons, joints laced with every illegal substance on earth, sex in bathroom stalls, lots and lots of puking: Aaron experiences it all, including (hilariously) being forced to act as an impromptu drug mule. Yet the movie isn’t staged in an excessive way. It has a rambly, realistic tone, with one orgiastic mishap spilling into the next, and that tone keeps much of the action popping with surprise.
Jonah Hill now looks like the unhealthiest actor on the planet, but he wears his rotund shape lightly, rather than letting it wear him. In Get Him to the Greek, Aaron has way too much of a good time, but Hill, with his low-key sincerity, keeps you rooting for him; he’s a schlemiel who’s always a bit reassuringly cooler than you expect. Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss, as his live-in girlfriend, makes her workaday prickliness convincing, and Sean Combs, as Aaron’s boss, gets to go entertainingly apoplectic.
Get Him to the Greek is a clever rock-world satire, with some lively take-offs on the TMZ-gossip magazine circus, but it’s also too long, and by the time of the inevitable Las Vegas sequence, it starts to grow repetitive. The movie isn’t, in the end, in the top drawer of Judd Apatow productions, as Forgetting Sarah Marshall was. It’s closer to a more flaked-out (and interesting) Pineapple Express. Aldous Snow was actually more hilarious when he had less time on screen. As indelible as Russell Brand is in the role, I’m not sure that the character really benefited from being given daddy issues and a guilt complex. The movie left me wondering: Where can Brand go from here? Can he keep milking the same royalty-of-scuzz routine he does on awards shows? If Get Him to the Greek elevates his career, as I suspect it will, maybe we’ll get to see where the rock star leaves off and the movie star begins. B