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Brand, Hill revive oddball chemistry in “Get Him to the Greek”

Movie Lesson No. 1,287: When P. Diddy chases you, you run. Because he'll mindf*ck the sh*t out of you, motherf*cker.

As much as affection as everyone felt for Jason Segel’s Peter, the dumped schlub in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” there was no denying the real star was Russell Brand. The coiffure that suggests mental illness, the sexual pyrotechnics, that explosive Jack Sparrow/Freddie Mercury persona — Brand’s media whore Aldous Snow was the chap we couldn’t take our eyes off of. Powerless we were (or me were) to that rakish, nimble Brit wit; indeed, a rock star who blows off a stalker with “I was going to, but then I just carried on living my life” has formidable powers of observation.

As it happens, the “stalker” in question (same actor, different character) makes an appearance in Nicholas Stoller’s dirty-minded and raucous “Get Him to the Greek,” an exploration of the character Segel created two years ago. This time around, though, Jonah Hill, blank-eyed straight man to Russell Brand’s alcoholic snatch bandit, has flattened out the weirder edges of his character and made him a genuine fan sans “Single White Female” undertones. Hill, like his “Superbad” bud Michael Cera, has two speeds: crazed rants or deadpan observations. Because he does both well, he’s an excellent foil for Brand, who rushes into every experience with all the zeal of a bull after a cape-waving matador. The odd couple angle is old as time immemorial, but when the chemistry’s clicking it works like a beaut. Brand and Hill are two funnymen — both smarter than they look or act — who can sell this story.

“Get Him to the Greek” finds Aldous Snow in a different place than “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” did. His career has taken a nosedive thanks to a godawful single called “African Child.” If the song is a disaster, the video is on par with the BP oil spill, painting Aldous as a white rock star Jesus Christ. His relationship with inane British pop star Jackie Q (Rose Byrne, cheerfully tarty) has soured, so Aldous, former poster child for sobriety, hops back on the sauce. Every sauce. Fan Aaron Green (Hill), an intern at Pinnacle Records living with his girlfriend Daphne (Elizabeth Moss), devises a plan to put “the last real rock star” on top: a live concert at L.A.’s Greek Theatre to commemorate the last show Aldous played there. His ball-busting boss Sergio (Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, who apparently has a personality and, like, jokes) charges him with collecting Aldous from London, getting him to The Today Show and delivering him to the Greek Theatre. In actual world, this scenario would end in a series of shouting matches and a drug overdose, but in movie world it’s a yellow brick road to Hijinksville.

Critical to the success of this orchestrated hilary is the feeling of spontaneity and the rapport between the buddies in question. We expect certain shenanigans — clubbing, sexcapades — and then the film throws some wild cards (to say nothing of the brawl involving a “Geoffrey,” P. Diddy going medieval/mindfucking/cementing a new career dedicated to funny cameos and “stroking the furry wall,” which is not a euphemism). Every situation is funny. Brand and Hill’s reactions to situations are funny. And not since “The Odd Couple” has there been a wedding of two less similar people. Brand specializes in shoving people outside their comfort zones — he bathed with a homeless junkie on his U.K. show — while Hill specializes in looking fetchingly uncomfortable outside his box. They’re a formidable duo because Hill’s flair for understatement (only he could make a line like “I think I was raped” that funny) balances Brand’s childlike antics. Each actor gives a touch of humanity, especially Brand. There’s a moment where Aldous, seeking his deadbeat dad’s (Colm Meaney) approval, has such a wounded look about the peepers that the reasons for his behavior are painfully clear. Aaron takes notice, sympathizes in such a way that we understand how these two might become friends: They fill gaps*. You may say that’s too deep for a movie about a singer who writes a song about gonorrhea, but anything jives when Brand’s on the set.

Grade: B+

*Hands-down, the best quote in “Rocky.”

15 Responses

  1. “Snatch bandit”? F’ing genius.

    Anytime you can use a Rocky quote has me sold!

  2. Gross-out comedy with heart. The Apatow group strikes again.

    • @ Simon/Ripley — Yes, yes you are. I can’t even look at you right now! (Turns face in dramatic fashion)

      @ Fitz — Everything he touch turns to gold, although I guess technically Segel gets the credit for inventing the character and Apatow was merely a producer for “Greek.”

  3. Great review M Carter! I’ll probably see it for myself sometime this week.

  4. Great review Meredith! You almost make me want to get over my resistance for Apatow-type comedies and see this in theater 😉 I’m still not convinced about Russell Brand and never understood the fascination with him.

  5. Apatow might be attached, but I think that both this and FSM are well enough outside of the feel of those brands to stand on their own as Stoller productions. I think each of them could’ve used a wee bit more editing here and there, but I enjoyed GHTTG overall – just a shade less than FSM.

    Brand will be alright long-term, I think. Soon, people are going to want to see him outside the crazy comfort zone, and I think he’ll be able to pull it off just fine (though at this point, he need not – I’m ready to see his take on Arthur, while at the same time worried it will feel too similar).

  6. Yay. I’m looking forward to this one. I think it’s a real “starmaker” for both Brand and Hill. Sure, Hill was a lead in Superbad, but he’s really just been giving supporting performances since then.

  7. Really happy to see you liked this one, M. I totally agree with you that Brand was kind of the scene-stealer of Sarah Marshall, but in spite of that I had a lot of concerns going into Greek about how well a movie that hinges on Brand and Hill having chemistry would actually fare. Their scenes together in Sarah Marshall were really, really uninspiring compared to everything else going on around them.

    It probably helps that Hill’s playing a totally different character this time around, a genuine fan and music enthusiast and not a nutjob stalker-type, and it also seems that the pair’s first outing together two years ago gave them the time to smooth out the bumps in their on-screen relationship. They’re great together here.

    Combs, though, generally trumps them both though he somehow manages to do so without completely smothering their shine. If Combs wants to do more comedies, he’s got my blessing– he’s totally killer here. Sergio might have been a slam-dunk for him considering how close he is to the character, much like Brand and his history of addiction come from the same mold as Aldous Snow, but I think saying so takes a lot away from Combs’ performance.

    • @ Castor — Reading his autobiography (a very funny and perceptive read, by the way) explains a lot about his personality. He’s not the kind of person, I think, who lets people get to know him; he’s all about the persona, which he created because he said he was convinced acting gay would get him girls. The reason I’m fascinated with him is that he’s this crazy, outlandish kook who’s also a keen observer of human nature.

      @ Fletch — I’m a little nervous about Brand’s first outside-the-box role, but the man’s got a deep soul. He could pull it off.

      @ Darren — Hill is a great comedian, and he definitely deserves more leading parts.

      @ Andrew — Where the hell did P. Diddy come from with all that funny? Like one reviewer I read, I had no expectations for his performance and he slammed it outta the stadium. His speech about the mindf*cking still has me rolling. It might be the best WTF? cameo since Tom Cruise in “Tropic Thunder.” And I hope Hill and Brand make more films together. They rub each other wrong, but somehow it’s a scream.

  8. […] Brand, Hill revive oddball chemistry in “Get Him to the Greek” « M … […]

  9. […] Brand, Hill revitalise oddball chemistry in “Get Him to a Greek” « M … […]

  10. Is it worth it for Byrne alone?

  11. Surprised that this seems to be scoring quite well, looks like Superbad meets School of Rock. Not my box of popcorn.

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