Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Get Him to the Greek is the second film by Nicholas Stoller, a sort of spin-off of his first film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Like that film, Get Him to the Greek is able to deliver a steady amount of laughs (probably more, in fact) but it fails to achieve the dramatic notes it so desperately wants to reach. The film is produced, among others, by Judd Apatow, and this is yet another one of his projects - from Knocked Up to Funny People - that I have failed to connect with emotionally.
The film's saving grace is Russell Brand, who reprises his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall as the rock star Aldous Snow. Fresh off the scathing commercial and critical response to his album "African Child," Aldous finds his life spiraling into an reckless, drug-addicted nightmare. His longtime partner, pop star Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), has left him, and taken their son Naples as well.
The other main character is Aaron Green (a competent Jonah Hill), an ambitious young intern who has advised his boss Sergio (Sean Combs) to organize a tenth anniversary concert for Aldous at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Initially dismissing the idea because of the negative controversy surrounding Aldous, Sergio eventually realizes the commercial benefits of such a concert, and assigns Aaron the three-day task of bringing Aldous from London to the Today Show and then to the Greek Theater.
This puts a dent in Aaron's relationship with Daphne (Elizabeth Moss of "Mad Men"). There is a very funny scene in which Aaron reveals his assignment to Daphne only to learn that she has been offered a job in Seattle, and she expects him to move because of it.
One of the key developments of the three-day road trip is the Las Vegas stop. This detour is made, at Aaron's suggestion, so that Aldous can speak with his estranged musician father (Colm Meaney). I suspect that this was intended to be a sequence of dramatic potency, but it never worked for me. Meaney has a few good lines, especially when he describes how Aldous' talent is all in his genes, but the entire scene is too full of drug-induced moments to ever ring true.
The dramatic subplot which I connected with the most was the one between Aldous and Jackie Q. Brand and Byrne share some good comedic timing, but they also play off each other's emotions effectively. More importantly, since all of the film's performers are effective, is the revelation that Jackie Q makes late in the film; it is a moment, I think, which is missing in the father-son relationship.
Because the film's plot is so thin, it relies heavily on the array of supporting characters. All of the actors do a good job, but the comedy is consistently hit-and-miss throughout, making it tough for me to give the film a complete recommendation. When the jokes are good, such as a scene in which Combs describes the art of the mind game, it is very good, but there are too many instances that drag. There were a few times where five to ten minutes went by without delivering a laugh or touching an emotional chord.
I cannot, however, give enough praise to Brand's performance. Brand himself is a wild man, but has been in recovery for years now. This, combined with his talent, gives a real sincerity to his portrayal. Even when the script asks him to do something that isn't quite right, his delivery never feels false. Any dramatic reaction that this film provokes should be accredited to Brand.
Since Brand is a main player in this film, Get Him to the Greek represents a slight improvement for Stoller. I think one of my main issues with some of these Apatow-like projects is their lack of an original premise. This handicap forces a couple things. Either the dialogue has to be consistently hilarious, which is very difficult to achieve, or some unexpected emotional territory needs to be reached. Get Him to the Greek doesn't necessarily do either of these things, but it is a passable film, and in the midst of this disappointing summer movie season, may that be enough?