Get Him to the Greek

Cinema review for August 5: Sarah Marshall spinoff
Get Him to the Greek

Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Rose Byrne, Colm Meaney, Elisabeth Moss, Aziz Ansari, Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs, Kali Hawk, Nick Kroll, Kristen Bell, Kristen Schaal, T.J. Miller, Carla Gallo. Written by Nicholas Stoller, from characters created by Jason Segel.

Get Him to the Greek never quite finds its footing as a sustained comedy, with intermittent stretches devoid of laughs, and it never really works as a drama, with jarring tonal shifts undercut by a comedic foundation. But it´s funny enough, and for all its other faults, it´s worth seeing for one extended Las Vegas sequence that reaches Marx Bros. levels of lunacy.

Greek is a kind of music industry version of My Favorite Year, with record label employee Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) given the task of escorting his idol, has-been rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), from London to Berkeley´s Greek Theatre (hence the title) for a comeback concert. Not an easy job, as Aaron soon discovers through a haze of booze, drugs, and women.

Greek director Nicholas Stoller, a protégé of Judd Apatow (who served as producer here), previously received acclaim for his debut feature, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Greek is a spin-off of sorts of that film, focusing on rocker Snow, a minor character in Marshall. Hill also appeared in the previous film, but plays a different character here.

I think Marshall was a better film: it grounded itself better in the Jason Segel character, and the drama paid off more effectively. But it also turned ugly (for me, at least) towards the end, with a revenge-fantasy sequence that went out of its way to humiliate the title character.

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I enjoyed Greek more, for what it´s worth – it reaches more elevated comedic heights – but it´s clearly the work of the same creator, with similar strengths and weaknesses. Towards the end, Greek takes a page from Chasing Amy for its dramatic payoff and stretches credibility. Beyond that, it just doesn´t feel right.

Part of Greek´s problem is the lack of a straight man; Hill and Brand are both very funny here, but neither is really capable of playing it straight. As written, Hill´s character seems to be the straight man; another actor in the role might have better grounded the film. Not that I minded when the laughs are coming fast and furious, but during the lulls the film seems to suffer.

Brand stole Marshall away from that film´s leads, and another actor accomplishes the same feat this time around: rapper Sean Combs (formerly Puff Daddy/P. Diddy). He´s uproarious as Aaron´s music producer boss, and features in some of the film´s best scenes.

Mad Men´s Elizabeth Moss does what she can in a mostly thankless role as Aaron´s overworked girlfriend. Rose Byrne fares better as Jackie Q, Aldous´ old flame and a pop star in her own right. The music video parodies with Byrne and Brand work so well because they exaggerate the condescending nature of the industry but never feel like something that couldn´t actually be produced.

Real-life music stars Pink and Christina Aguilera appear as themselves in quick cameos. Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich is amusing in a slightly more significant role.


Also opening: Kajínek (showtimes | IMDb), a true-life drama from director Petr Jákl starring Konstantin Lavroněnko, Tatiana Vilhelmová, Boguslaw Linda, Michal Dlouhý, and Deana Jakubisková – Horváthová. Screening in Czech.

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