REVIEW: Get Him to the Greek Finds the Sweet Spot of Rock Debauchery
In the unapologetically crude and shamelessly silly Get Him to the Greek, Jonah Hill plays a low-level record-company exec, Aaron Green, assigned to escort washed-up rock English rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) from London to New York and then on to Los Angeles, where this petulant, hard-living has-been will ultimately appear in a big comeback concert. Along the way Aaron will have to suffer a variety of humiliations: He'll be seduced by ambitious, voracious Vegas "entertainers" (much to the chagrin of his long-suffering doctor-in-training girlfriend, played by Elisabeth Moss, left at home); he'll be plied with substances that turn him into a blathering, paranoid idiot; and he'll be forced to hide baggies of narcotics in deep, dark secret places. Ah, the rock-and-roll lifestyle, source of much hilarity and debauchery.
And yet somehow there are enough ancillary laughs banked around these feeble antics to keep Get Him from the Greek from the cutout bin. The funniest bits in the movie are, by and large, the small, offhanded gags stuffed into the corners (not, as it were, into those deep, dark secret places). The director here is Nicholas Stoller, who previously made the well-received but disappointingly shapeless 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It's possible that Get Him to the Greek has even less of a defined shape than its predecessor did (Stoller co-wrote the script with Jason Segel). But its freewheeling shagginess counts for something, and unlike Stoller's earlier picture, Get Him to the Greek manages to sustain its hepped-up, manic energy for surprisingly long stretches.
It also contains numerous moments of unrepentant absurdity that work in spite of themselves, as comedy so often does. When Sean Combs, as Aaron's crazed, demanding boss (he has the great, ridiculously unlikely name Sergio Roma), coaches him in the management of unruly rock stars, he stresses the importance of that time-honored intimidation technique so beloved by upper-management types, the mind-f***. "I'm mind f***-ing you right now," he tells Aaron, staring him down with the faux-nutso intensity of David Byrne performing "Psycho Killer" circa 1977. Aaron patiently endures this act of imaginary penetration before going for the kicker: "I hope you're wearing a condom, because you've got a dirty mind."
Get Him to the Greek is filled with gags like that, jokes so lame and ludicrous they somehow circle 'round back to being funny. It doesn't hurt that the movie is dotted with an assortment of lively second- and third bananas, Combs among them. (He has the megalomaniacal record-industry exec thing down cold.) Rose Byrne, as Snow's ditzy, kittenish ex, Jackie Q., also has a few deliciously zonked-out scenes, including a faux rock video that shows her romping around in a tiny, flouncy French milkmaid costume. Byrne, in addition to being a good sport, has marvelous comic timing: At one point she blinks out at us from behind a set of enormous feather eyelashes, fluttering her lids as if it were the most normal thing in the world to have Cleopatra's fans affixed to your lashline.
Even Hill is, for once, reasonably funny here, possibly because he's used sparingly and carefully. The character he's playing is painfully realistic: He's a wholly believable rendering of every obsessive LP-collecting schmoe who thought it would be cool to turn his love of music into a full-time job in what used to be known as the recording industry, only to find that working said job for more than a year or two is enough to kill off your love of music altogether. Hill is perfectly happy to play the foil here, settling down to play the stereotypical down-trodden schlub who dips a cautious toe into the fabled rock-and-roll lifestyle and finds it overrated.
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