Two years ago, Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a hit not just because of Jason Segel’s full frontal shot, but because it was a highly entertaining, smart and quirky film. In fact, it was probably in spite of the former that it succeeded. In FSM, Segal’s cute but doughy Peter ends up at a Hawaiian resort with his ex (Kristen Bell) and her new, outrageous singer-boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). Though mainly as a fop and foil to make everyone wonder why Sarah would pick the flashy performer over the comfortable Peter, Snow was definitely a character that stuck with you. Kind of like an STD. Which is why it’s completely understandable that FSM director Nicholas Stoller is returning to this world as both writer and director for Get Him to the Greek, a film that allows Snow (and Brand) to take center stage.
Also returning from FSM, though in a completely new role, is Jonah Hill, who ditches the sycophant waiter from FSM for the role of Aaron, a sycophant low-level record company staffer. Thankfully the film is one big hyperbole – otherwise, the thought of putting the metaphorically lightweight Aaron in charge of getting the out-of-control Snow from London to Los Angeles is ludicrous. Getting Snow in line is like getting Lindsay Lohan to behave.
The other similarity between Lohan and Snow is that you never know what’s going to come out of (or be put into) their mouths, but since Snow has a British accent, he can get away with it. The majority of the film is like an Indiana Jones quest, tracking the two from London to New York to Vegas to L.A., each step putting the pair in grave peril, and each step one closer to the Holy Grail – the concert at the theater called the Greek that will revive Snow’s sales. (Apparently it was a messianic complex mixed with some African-themed songs that caused a meltdown for Snow’s career.)
Where FSM was about relationships with some crazy scenarios, Get Him to the Greek is about crazy scenarios with a dash of relationships to provide structure. As he’s leaving town, Aaron and his live-in girlfriend have a fight that leads to a Friends-style misunderstanding (a la Ross and Rachel of ”I thought we were on a break”). Meanwhile, Snow’s girlfriend (Rose Byrne) has a hit with her “Rosy-Posey” song (about the joys of anal sex) but keeps him away from their son.
Amazingly, it’s this character development that actual gives Get Him to the Greek some needed substance. While Stoller is setting up the outlandish plot (admittedly in an expedient manner), it feels like the whole project is going to be little more than a vehicle that allows Hill and Brand to say shocking things while acting like fools. But the friendship between the two, and common ground they find, actually makes Get Him to the Greek both a road trip and a bromance.
It would be too easy to allow Snow to become a caricature of rock stars and never actually take the character to the next level. Yet in Brand’s hands, Snow’s ticks, mood swings and utter devotion to all things hedonistic become cute foibles. For example, Snow is endearing even as he’s forcing Aaron to smuggle drugs for him in his rectum.
Hill handles the straight-man role quite well, but it’s clear he’s not going to play second fiddle for long. Hill’s timing is spot-on, and he makes sure that the insecure Aaron holds his own opposite Snow’s larger-than-life persona. However, no matter how you try to ignore it, Hill’s physique is alarming. When Aaron is running down a hallway, it’s tough to laugh at the jokes when you’re worrying that he’s going to have a heart attack.
Though the relationship components of the film are critical to giving a needed gravitas to propel the plot forward, Stoller could have left some of the scenes on the cutting room floor. Mainly, the ones that have to do with Aaron and his girlfriend, played by a subdued Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men). While this subplot allows for a quirky threesome scenario, eventually it just ends up being more awkward than fun. There’s enough going on for Snow and between Snow and Aaron that this sidetrack is just extra fat that could be trimmed.
The film is filled with well-known faces, some as themselves and some as characters. Sean Combs gives a hysterical performance as Aaron’s boss, relying on racial and bad-boss stereotypes for the laughs. Other cameos include Mario López, Kurt Loder, Christina Aguilera and Meredith Vieira. By the time that Bell makes a brief appearance, you’re ready to forget the whole Sarah Marshall business and focus solely on getting to the Greek.