Get Him to The Greek

WFTB Score: 9/20

The plot: The career of eccentric British rocker Aldous Snow is on the slide after the disastrous reception of his single African Child. His record company is stumped at how to get him back in vogue, but young Aaron Green has the answer: make him play the Greek Theater in L.A. where he recorded a smash hit live album ten years before. As a reward for his bright idea, Aaron is given the job of fetching Aldous from London and getting him to the gig on time. Aldous, ever the rocker, makes Aaron’s life a living hell on the way.

Life’s okay for chunky young Aaron Green (Jonah Hill): he has a pretty girlfriend in doctor Daphne (Elisabeth Moss), though her work schedule means they struggle to find time for each other; and he has a pretty sweet job in the record industry, though falling sales are bothering company supremo Sergio (Sean Combs), especially since their property Aldous Snow’s (Russell Brand) career has bombed since the release of the crass African Child, splitting the formerly reformed star up from the love of his life Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) and sending him back to the bottle and any narcotics he can get hold of. Aaron’s idea of getting Snow to relive his finest moment by playing a 10th Anniversary gig at Los Angeles’ Greek Theater is, on the face of it, genius; but getting him from London to L.A. in his current state of mind requires someone with experience and an iron will. Unfortunately, Sergio sends Aaron instead; and the star is much keener to get loaded and laid than getting to either TV studios or the gig on time. Aaron is forced into a series of humiliations, culminating in a trip to Las Vegas to see Snow’s father (Colm Meaney) that spirals into a drug-addled, furry-walled hell. And as Aldous discovers some home truths about himself and his relationships with others (including his son), the gig becomes the last thing on his mind.

The twisted half-sister of Stoller’s first film featuring Russell Brand, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to The Greek obviously fits into the same philosophical universe as Apatow productions such as The Forty-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Which is to say that the film is totally uninhibited when it comes to talking about sex, drugs and (to a lesser extent) rock and roll. Brand’s snow is the old master, showing Hill’s young apprentice the ropes, and each learns from the other as they take their chaotic trip to L.A. It works, too, up to a point; laughs come prolifically, through shock if nothing else, and the leads are all engaging. Brand, still relatively new to the acting game, shows himself capable of a broad range of emotions, and Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs throws his all into the slightly unhinged role of Sergio. As our contact with normality, Hill does well as Aaron, pushed to the limit by the demands of ‘the talent’.

Get Him to the Greek is set up as a larky, blokey road trip, then, aiming for a bit of depth towards the end as Aldous reveals the emptiness behind his rock star posturing. The film’s early wildness makes for a bumpy transition into sentimentality; but a much bigger problem is the film’s treatment of women. Stoller‘s movie (like many an Apatow film, regrettably) treats all females as sex-hungry wantons, be they starlets or surgeons. Jackie Q is unappealingly sluttish, though at least she has a job, unlike the legion of groupies (such as the sexually adventurous Destiny) who gladly bend to the will of the film‘s men.

Daphne’s motivations, too, are all over the place: one minute she demands that she and Aaron move to Seattle (forcing the break-up that allows Aaron to party in London), the next she’s all forgiving, before turning again as she insists on a threesome with Aaron and Aldous, who has turned up out of nowhere expressly for the ménage à trois. No doubt this scene was intended to be partly comic and partly awkward, but in execution it’s simply horrible, neither funny, sexy or anything but grubby – even Brand looks as though he wants no part of it. This misstep then feeds into the sombre climax of the film, before everything is magically resolved by the buzz of the concert and an unconvincing ’it all turned out okay’ resume of Aldous and Aaron’s lives, Aldous sober and Aaron an independent producer in Seattle.

Elsewhere, the songs are okay, even if they’re reminiscent of Austin Powers’ band Ming Tea at times. Jackie Q’s paean to anal sex is just unpleasant, however, and is typical of a callous edge to the film’s comedy: what, for example, is so hilarious about a stabbed drug dealer getting dumped outside a hospital? A hint of nastiness and chauvinism lingers everywhere in Get Him to the Greek and it makes me less inclined to accept the swearing and outrageousness for the fun it’s meant to be. I know it’s a sign of old gittery, but it’s amazing what you can say and do in a ‘15’ certificate film these days; I do worry that younger audiences will take the film’s messages at face value, such as the lethal ‘Jeffrey’ spliff being just a bit of fun that makes you do crazy sh*t.

Worst of all, the film has the cheek to have Sergio say (of British rock stars) that they are indestructible and immortal, despite their drink and drug habits: tell that to the families of Brian Jones, Keith Moon and John Bonham – and Sergio actually references Led Zeppelin! I guess the line was meant to be ironic, but Combs’ delivery doesn’t make that clear and the movie’s celebration of hedonism is all the more distasteful for it.

Get Him to the Greek is not a bad comedy, and though it’s far too lacking in real wit to bear remote comparison to This is Spinal Tap, it parties much harder and is always more fun to watch than Rock Star, and certainly feels more authentic than Forgetting Sarah Marshall: though these are admittedly pretty low hurdles.

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