Movie Review: Get Him to the Greek

Russell Brand as a sex crazed, drug addled star - on film

So….Russell Brand as a flamboyant egomaniacal rock star who hoovers up narcotics as fast as he beds beautiful women – and we thought he went to Hollywood to be an actor.

Comedy fans will agree that any Judd Apatow film is worth a look, and this time, Apatow’s favourite sidekick Jonah Hill gets his day in the sun, with his first starring role after a string of extremely well received comedy supporting roles in films like Superbad, Knocked up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

In Get Him to the Greek, Hill plays Aaron Green, a nerdy, likeable record company punching bag who has the bright idea to resurrect the ailing career of Aldous Snow (Brand) with a ten year anniversary concert at the Greek Theatre in LA. And all he has to do is collect the drug addled Snow and – obviously – get him to The Greek. And during the journey, the expected hilarity will ensue.

And for the most part, it does. Get Him to the Greek is not as polished as Knocked Up, it’s not as adorable as Superbad, but it follows a tried and tested formula that Apatow and creator Jason Segal have used to great effect, with a combination of cartoonish characters, icepick-sharp dialogue and killer throwaway lines, plus the usual mish-mash of physical comedy, unexpected moments of weird comedy gold (imagine P Diddy trying, very seriously, to “fuck your mind”), all hung very comfortably on Hill’s ability to play the straight man with a series of beautifully diverse facial expressions against Brand’s over the top Snow. Understatedly brilliant straight men are hard to find, but, like Ackroyd versus Murray in Ghostbusters, they’re worth their weight in gold, and Jonah Hill is certainly one of them.

Whether or not the acting was a stretch or merely a stroll down what’s left of his memory lane, Brand, as Aldous Snow, is absolutely mesmerising (including a laugh out loud opening scene in which Snow, filming the video for “African Child”, tells us seriously “Imagine me as an African White Christ in Space”). Snow was first introduced in Forgetting Sarah Marshall – there’s a lovely moment when Marshall (Kristen Bell) appears in a trailer for her new movie, and Brand remarks “I think I used to shag her”. Brand, in his typical faux cockney, dandyish way, may not steal the show exactly but he certainly doesn’t let the side down, displaying not only his natural comedic chops, but a vulnerability and kindness to his performance as the most insecure of celebrities that is both surprising and delightful. It’s particularly entertaining for Brits who’ve enjoyed Brands rise to fame via his tabloid exploits – half the fun is wondering where Snow ends and Brand begins, but for the purposes of this performance, pastiche is irrelevant – it’s just great viewing, with Brand’s particular style of lyrical squirm-comedy merging beautifully with the script.

As Aaron struggles to get Snow to the show on time, we’re treated to a typically diverse range of quirky characters – Sean Combs is, frankly, outstanding as the egotistical madman running the record label on platitudes and hot air (“We gotta thicken the revenue stream. We gotta thicken the fuck outta that stream!”) – as well as a brilliant turn form Rose Byrne as Snow’s ex, and a genuinely lovely performance from Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss as Aaron’s overworked girlfriend, whose relationship takes a bizarre turn in what may well be cinema’s most awkward threesome scene. And there’s a lot of that in this film – comedy forced awkwardly into places you’re not really sure it belongs.

Apatow’s filmmaking, by now, is dangerously close to becoming a factory churning out product after product, in the same way that Will Ferrell/Ben Stiller family did before him. However, like their predecessors, if the comedy formula works as well as it does here, a little fraying around the edges isn’t going to hurt.

Andrea Hubert