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The Fashionably Late Review: Get Him to the Greek

October 8, 2010

I’d like to say this up front. I’m not really a Russell Brand fan. Although I do realize he fills a particular niche in the comedy spectrum — the foppish, dandy bad boy (who filled that niche previously?) — I don’t find him particularly amusing or particularly entertaining. Perhaps that’s due to some of his past, pre-American-breakout gags, in which he worked mightily to become one of Britain’s foremost “shock jocks”: showing up dressed as Osama Bin Laden the day after the 9/11 bombings or making a series of radio-broadcasted phone calls to English actor Andrew Sachs in which he detailed sex with Sachs’ granddaughter. But that’s just me. And I’m well aware that these days, everyone loves Russell Brand — especially since he’s become engaged to pin-up pop queen Katy Perry. He’s become a part of the American comedy/celebrity fabric (he’s even helming a remake of the Dudley Moore classic Arthur), so I might as well accept he’s here to stay.

If he’s here to stay, then, he could do a lot worse than films like Get Him to the Greek. This summer’s rock-and-roll comedy makes it a lot easier to stomach Brand, because Get Him to the Greek is both a tremendously entertaining and funny film, and Brand is both tremendously entertaining and funny in it.

Brand plays Brit-rocker Aldous Snow, a character he himself originated in 2008’s Apatow-produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in his own side story featuring a harried record executive (Jonah Hill) with 48 hours to get Snow to L.A.’s Greek theater for an anniversary reprise of one of the musician’s most famous concert appearances. Hill’s Aaron Green is a novice looking for brownie points with boss Sergio (Sean “Diddy” Combs, a hugely comic surprise here sending up his own image), but finds himself in over his head as his attempts to babysit and herd the rocker to L.A. continually go awry.

There’s a great deal of humor to be mined from the “rock stars behaving badly” arena, and Brand plays Snow as a current day/throwback amalgam of people, a flighty combination between Sid Vicious and Pete Dougherty. Snow is by turns egotistical, soft, out-of-his-gourd on drugs, angry, deceptive, friendly and childish — and it’s nice icing on the cake that director Nicholas Stoller films the movie with a fun series of jumps, title cards and cutaway scenes reminiscent of a music video, a rock documentary or an episode of Access Hollywood.

The film trucks along at a breakneck pace as Snow’s concert at the Greek nears go-time, and the film jumps from comic set-pieces in London, on The Today Show and Las Vegas (the latter a screwball, Marx-brothers-esque scene involving flying cueballs and room service silverware, an adrenaline shot and a wall covered in fur). And mostly — sans a skeevy third act moment that kind of destroys the good vibe in a creepy way — it works. Hill is as good here as he is in Superbad, playing the straight man to great effect…and vomiting on camera no less than five times. It’s nice to see Jonah Hill’s got legs and can stretch into other characters; he’s really very funny and exceedingly rootable and likeable.

If Brand is attempting to overtake American audiences, winning over one critic at a time, films like Get Him to the Greek are a good way to do it — although it’s doubtful Brand can continue to play the Snow character over and over without running it into the ground. For now, however, it’s working, and there are a lot of good times in Stoller’s Get Him to the Greek to be had.  Like the character of Aldous Snow himself, the film is manic, wild, fast and an awful lot of fun.

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