There comes a point in Get Him to the Greek at which Sean Combs begins to gleefully eat his head. Is this perhaps a meditation on identity and celebrity? Combs devouring P. Diddy, chomping Puff Daddy...conflating the many personas back to the very essence of the man? Well, not so much. The surreal, incestuous Pac-Man we see is actually part of an absinthe trip besetting poor Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), as he tries to ride the bucking (quaffing, snorting, sniffing) rock-n-roll bronco that is Aldous Snow, all the way from dear old Blighty to NYC and ultimately to an anniversary gig at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.
Like many such episodes in Get Him to the Greek, the scene is smart, more than a little deranged and very funny. But yay, though we now walk through the valley of the shadow of cinematic death which is these past couple of years, you should fear no such evil. You should seek it out, in fact
Get Him to the Greek is a second go-round for director Nicholas Stoller and stars Russell Brand and Jonah Hill. It was Stoller who directed 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, among the best of the slew of Judd-Apatow-produced comedies of recent years. Brand and his roguish Aldous Snow, obviously too big to be confined to a subplot of one film, are back, as is Hill, though this time as a record company drone. He is perhaps still Snow's biggest fan though not quite as obsessed as was his Matthew the waiter character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
As Aaron says to his boss, Sergio Roma (Combs), trying to get the record company to spring for the Infant Sorrow (the nominal front for Aldous' musical endeavors) anniversary show, "Aldous Snow is the last rock star." And really, the pudgy go-getter has got a point. Russell Brand does rather look, move and act like the last rock star. He's got the perpetually skinny body (whether various illicit substances have helped both the actor and imaginary rock god, one can only guess), the cascade of hair, the limbs and hips, which if not involved in a sex act seem always ready to suggestively pantomime one. Like many rock stars, the more ridiculously he is clad, the more indifferently the long hair is thrown back, pasted across his forehead, standing on end, whatever...the more striking he seems to look.
Brand, like Mila Kunis, was one of the many pleasant surprises in Forgetting Sara Marshall. Early on in Get Him to the Greek, after the initial laughs have subsided, it's not entirely clear if Brand will be able to carry the film which is so focused on him. But Stoller, both writer and director, keeps things moving along pretty crisply. Brand and Hill share no great chemistry, but there is enough friction to keep their characters often cross purposes believable.
There's more of the slick, satirical use of celebrity-hounding television shows, something that was done so seamlessly in "Sarah Marshall." As ever, those entertainment "reporters," like perpetual wannabe cool kids, pop up - Mario Lopez, Billy Bush and Kurt Loder make appearances, among others - and seem happy to be involved, even if the joke is partially on them. Meredith Vieira also makes an appearance when Aldous is slated to play one of those Today Show outdoor concerts (One imagines a sanctimonious Matt Lauer holding himself aloof from the proceedings). The song he sings? Having mercifully forgotten the words to his most recent dud single, he reverts to one of his old hits, "The Clap." A catchy song about hand clapping? Nope. A catchy song about gonorrhea. Which Aldous tears through to the delight of the crowd. If nothing else, Get Him to the Greek should be given credit for creating a parallel universe in which The Today Show provides any entertainment value, ironic or not.
Since last seen leaving the posh Hawaiian resort in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, our friend Aldous has been riding a perhaps predictable roller coaster. Both his long-term relationship to Jackie-Q (Rose Byrne), a Fergie-like pop star in her own right, and with it his long-maintained sobriety have gone by the wayside. Not coincidentally, these events followed the downturn in his career, following Infant Sorrow's ill-advised album and single, "African Child," the dud previously noted. The title pretty much says it all. In a rare moment of good taste, the music-buying public rejected the musical message of Snow's "white African Christ...from space." Stinging from that massive failure, poor Aldous is soon on the outs with Jackie-Q and lustily embracing old habits.
Russell Brand as Aldous Snow
Enter the eager Aaron, trying to drag the now determinedly non-sober Aldbous out of bars, off comely young women, away from drug dears and their various wares. Somtimes this involves actually throwing himself on the intoxicating land mine, as when Aaron drinks and smokes Aldous' entire stash to keep him sober before the aforementioned Today Show gig. There's also the absinthe binge and one of the film's funniest gags, while the boys are in Los Vegas to pay a visit to Aldous' estranged father (Colm Meaney, looking the victim of a very bad makeover), when Aaron takes a few hits off some sort of super spliff, called a "Jeffrey." He freaks out while all sort of mayhem ensues between Aldous, his dad and Roma. Occasionally, Aldous takes a break from the action to exhort Aaron to "stroke the furry wall," to calm himself, a wall in the posh room in which the melee is taking place being draped in some sort of deep-pile carpeting.
Some have complained at the relative happy ending in Get Him To The Greek following all the entertaining bad behavior. But one doesn't really negate the other; this is a comedy after all. Just as Shakespearean comedies resolve themselves in marriage, Apatow movies, however transgressively they might extend themselves, also tend to conclude with a union of one sort or another. Here it's not Aldous and Aaron, but Aldous and Aldous. "To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance," wrote Wilde. Words by which any good rock star can live. Rave on, Aldous.