Get Him to the Greek
Bromance is in the air once again, thanks to Apatow alum Nick Stoller's raunchy comedy Get Him to the Greek. This is Stoller's sophomore directorial effort and it's actually a spin-off of his debut feature, the drab, mildly entertaining rom-com Forgetting Sarah Marshall. That movie featured a boozy rock star named Aldous Snow, played by bad boy comedian Russell Brand, who has now been given more screen time and more opportunities to drunkenly slur his dialogue. Aldous is the only character called over from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which isn't really a bad thing, considering how unmemorable the majority of that cast was. Then again, this isn't much of an improvement.
Ubiquitous comic star Jonah Hill plays Aaron, a music exec's lackey whose suggestion that a ten-year anniversary concert for disgraced rock star Aldous Snow is a great way to generate revenue sends him on a torrid journey. Aaron idolizes Aldous, even though the majority of the world has turned their back on the rocker following his disastrous new album, which attempts to shine a spotlight on the horrors of war and famine in African countries. Despite his almost commendable intentions, the album is a bust and critics complain that it's "the worst thing to happen to Africa since Apartheid." That's some darkly comedic criticism right there.
But despite Aldous Snow's plummeting popularity, Aaron's boss, played by a confident, though entirely unfunny Sean Combs, decides to go ahead with the concert plan. At surface level, Aaron's mission appears to be pretty simple. He has to fly to London and escort the hard-partying rocker first to New York for a Today Show appearance and then to Los Angeles for the anniversary concert. Aaron has three days to complete this task, which is quite generous given that he really only has to get Aldous on two flights and ensure he remains somewhat conscious. But of course, upon meeting his rocker idol for the first time, Aaron instantly discovers how challenging Aldous is to control.
What follows is a raucous adventure filled with drugs and debauchery. Aaron slowly descends into Aldous' personal hell labelled as a rock star's life. He drinks to the point of vomiting on himself, he smuggles drugs across international borders, and he comes perilously close to an overdose, resulting in a Pulp Fiction-inspired scene of Aldous injecting adrenaline through a syringe directly into Aaron's heart. It's all ridiculous and silly and occasionally funny, but the crucial flaw of Get Him to the Greek is that Stoller is always so quick to reign in the insanity.
Stealing away screen-time from the partying is a pair of tender love stories that are too light on dramatic resonance to strike a touching balance between comedy and drama. Aaron loves Daphne (Elizabeth Moss), his medical intern girlfriend with whom he shares a home and a quiet life. But when Daphne is offered a job in a Seattle hospital and insists they move there just prior to Aaron's journey with Aldous, their relationship seems to crumble. This opens the door for Aaron to engage in all sorts of single-life activities that Daphne is sure to disapprove of.
For Aldous, the one that got away is British pop sensation Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), with whom he shares a son and the music video for the ill-fated African Child single. Their relationship lasted for almost a decade and Aldous is now feeling the sting of losing her, even if he hates to admit it. These two romantic subplots dominate quite a bit of narrative space and the movie really becomes a juxtaposition of the hard partying ways of a rocker lifestyle and the warmly soothing qualities of curling up with a loved one. Stoller deserves credit for trying to mix raunchiness with gooey, doe-eyed love, but neither the comedy nor romance is ever particularly satisfying.
Hill and Brand have some basic chemistry together, which prevents their scenes from becoming exercises in irritating idiocy. But it's only when the movie really lets loose that things turn truly funny. Unfortunately, those moments of reckless abandon are brief and stranded. Stoller directs the whole affair with such self-conscious worry that the movie never really travels far enough down either path (the funny or the dramatic, the raunchy or the sweet) to fully realize the story's potential. Just as the movie starts to enter honestly humorous territory, Stoller eases off the craziness to ensure that he doesn't entirely sacrifice the heartfelt romantic subplots.
Tackling comedy and drama in a single movie is a juggling act that requires a deft shifting of tonal focus. Stoller has his heart in the right place, but his attempts to make an R-rated comedy infused with a sweet message about filling the void of loneliness with a significant other end up falling flat. There's an authenticity to his intentions, but none of the movie's storylines are ever engaging enough to make the outcomes worth caring about. I certainly didn't dislike Aaron or Aldous, but Hill and Brand didn't make me want to cheer for them, either. They're a fine comic pair to hang out with for a few minutes, but their charm only goes so far and there's not much happening beyond the actors' standard shtick.
The one area of Get Him to the Greek where Stoller deserves quite a bit of praise is in his ability to create a very convincing alternate pop culture reality where Aldous and Jackie are tabloid-fodder celebrities. Stoller calls upon brief celeb cameos and existing gossip outlets in order to expertly mimic the current celebrity climate. A collection of mock music videos featuring both Aldous and Jackie (together or separate) offer some chuckles and the spoof mentality behind the videos doesn't stop them from looking and sounding like the real thing.
By no means is Get Him to the Greek a total disaster, but it's never funny or moving enough to be worthy of a recommendation. Stoller's sensibilities help keep the movie on a watchable track, but it is his insistence upon searching aimlessly for the crossroads between comedy and drama that causes the movie to eventually unravel. I like what Stoller is trying to do here (and Get Him to the Greek producer Judd Apatow has previously achieved it in movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up), but if the movie isn't funny enough to sell the comedy and it isn't touching enough to sell the romantic drama, then clearly something isn't quite working. Get Him to the Greek didn't bore me to tears, but it didn't entertain me with promises of tear-flowing laughter, either, instead opting to lamely languish in between.