NEWS

Movie review: Russell Brand on target in 'Get Him to the Greek'

Al Alexander

With a full-frontal assault of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, the raucous “Get Him to the Greek” offers a new Brand of comedy under the familiar banner of an old pro in Judd Apatow. A spin-off of the uber-producer’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Greek” is a comedy of many pleasures. But what makes it thrive is the blood of a hirsute Englishman named Russell Brand, smoothly making the transition from supporting character in “Sarah Marshall” to breakout star with his hilarious reprisal of that film’s overmedicated, under-talented rock star, Aldous Snow.

Like his free-spirited character, Brand knows no bounds when it comes to releasing inhibitions. And, boy, does he release them in creating a rocker so debauched he makes Amy Winehouse look like the Jonas Brothers. He also seldom wastes an opportunity to mock the Pete Dohertys, Courtney Loves and the hundreds of other addled-brained rockers who’ve found more success scoring drugs than scoring hits.

His not-so-subtle tweaks are dead-on, too; from the inflated ego and diva-like mentality to the deep insecurities rooted in Aldous’ frayed relationships with his abusive father (Colm Meaney) and Victoria Beckham-like ex-lover (a perfectly cast Rose Byrne), whose tarty pop songs have made her a bigger star than him.

It’s all played for laughs, but this being an Apatow production, there’s also a good deal of heart and emotion behind the frivolity. And that’s especially true in the bromance that slowly evolves between Aldous and Jonah Hill’s (“Superbad”) eager-to-please record label flunky, Aaron, who is dispatched to London to escort Aldous to California for a much-hyped reunion concert at L.A.’s infamous Greek Theatre.

Like a modern-day Laurel and Hardy, the portly Hill and gangly Brand prove a sublime comedy duo, as writer-director Nicholas Stoller sends them on an episodic adventure from London to L.A. and the many chaotic stops between.

What ensues falls somewhere between the hard edges of “Almost Famous” and the soft hero worship of “My Favorite Year,” albeit with a plethora of vomit and penis jokes thrown in.

Stoller, as he did with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” wisely lets his two stars freely work their magic in bringing freshness to a rather stale scenario of opposites attracting.

Going in, you know Aldous will teach Hill’s Aaron Green to loosen up, and strait-laced Aaron will get Aldous to be more responsible, as each gains a modicum of self-respect.

But to make it sing, it’s going to require copious amounts of chemistry and charm on the parts of Brand and Hill. And on that note, they seldom disappoint, finding the perfect harmony between their disparate comedic styles – just as they did in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

While Hill is playing a different character from his role in that cult classic, his chemistry with Brand remains strong, whether they’re bedding a pair of eager young groupies in the loo or brawling with Aldous’ ornery daddy in an upscale Vegas lounge.

It’s the supporting players, however, who put “Greek” at the top of the charts. And any discussion of their huge contributions must begin with Sean Combs, who does for this movie what Mike Tyson did for “The Hangover.”

He’s loud, scary and slightly insane as Aaron’s brilliant but acerbic boss, who not so much talks to you as talks at you. He’s also not above playing the race card for nervous laughs.

The beauty of Combs’ performance, though, is in how it builds and builds until he erupts in a volcanic rage in the middle of the third act.

It’s easily the best moment in the film, but it comes with some 15 minutes left to go, and Stoller and his stars never come close to reaching that level of intensity again, which makes the end of the journey seem a bit of a letdown.

Stoller also falls into the trap of tying everything up a tad too neatly, and that includes Aaron’s frayed relationship with his live-in girlfriend (“Mad Men’s” Elizabeth Moss) and Aldous’ constant pining for Byrne’s Jackie Q, who threatens to run off with Metalica drummer Lars Ulrich, hilarious in one of the film’s many inventive cameos.

Those walk-ons, ranging from Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman to Sarah Marshall herself, Kristen Bell, add immeasurably to the ingredients of a “Greek” salad that remains sharp to the taste, albeit a bit cheesy around the edges.

Al Alexander may be reached at aalexander@ledger.com.

GET HIM TO THE GREEK   (R for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language.) Cast includes Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Rose Byrne, Elizabeth Moss and Sean Combs. Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller. 3 stars out of 4.