Get Him To The Greek (***)

Written and Directed by Nicholas Stoller

Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Elizabeth Moss, Sean Combs, Rose Byrne, Colm Meany

It’s an interesting proposition to make a career portraying a sober rock star when you present yourself as someone who appears to be ill with drug abuse at all times.  Such is the life of Russell Brand, who famously has been sober for many years.  Sober from Heroin addiction.  Sober from sex addiction.  Sober from alcohol abuse.  He managed to skate by as Aldous Snow, in Forgetting Sarah Marshall only indulging in one of those pastimes.  By the time we are 10 minutes into Get Him To The Greek, Snow is already headlong back into the world of indulgence.

Brand is an engaging fellow, in the way that someone who you meet someone else at a party who is stoned as you are.  It’s all good and fun, until you sober up, and realize that you have to go back to work.  Brand, however, never really has to work.  How, then, do you make a movie  with him?  Pair him with a relatively normal guy, like Jonah Hill, whose job it is to make sure that Brand’s alter ego meets a commitment, say, to play an anniversary concert of his grand achievement at the Greek 10 years earlier.  You know, the good old days, when he was stoned.

Making a movie such as this is a practice in futility.  Trying to get laughs out of being stoned is one of the most over used and least effective movie devices.  In …Marshall the advantage was in having Snow as a peripheral and colorful character.  Brand had room to move in the film, and move he did.  The worst thing possible occurred at this point, they decided on a spin-off.

As spin offs go, …Greek is closer to Evan Almighty than Fraiser. It’s watchable, but not essential.  In the beginning, Snow is near the top of the world.  He foolishly decides to go the Madonna route, feigning significance by plopping himself in the midst of real world crisis in Africa.  It goes about as well as expected.  They may have made an altogether different movie, it’s just not one that is as good as the original.

First the good things:

  1. Russell Brand is eminently watchable.  He only hurts himself, of course, so he is pretty nice, in general.  These qualities are no doubt what landed him the lead in the Arthur remake.  Strangely, this movie also plays like Arthur.
  2. The cast is good.  Jonah Hill is probably at his least effective here, and he is still pretty good.  Elisabeth Moss has the talents of a great actress and the looks believable to be Hill’s girlfriend.  Colm Meany is thoroughly delightful as Brand’s boozy, Vegas band playing Dad.   Sean Combs gives the best performance here, as a crazy like a fox record company executive.
  3. The soundtrack is excellent.  “Bangers, Beans and Mash,” “The Clap,” and “African Child (Trapped in Me)” lead the way, with “Furry Walls” making a good end to a bad joke.

I could list a few other marginal things to like about this film, but, ultimately, I am stuck with a feeling in my stomach that will not go away.  The unfunny and quite plain truth is the fact that Brand is a self-proclaimed addict, and this movie makes addiction seem fun.  He is said to have a kid, who seems to be more prescient than he is at an age that I was not allowed to leave my front yard.  When he discovers the truth about his girlfriend, the disappointment is offset with the fact that he had not seen her or the kid in months, if not years.  But then, in his state, who can tell the difference?

The drug sessions are deceptively harmless, and actually quite timely.  Amazing, for the fact that they spend most of the movie with varying degrees of consciousness.  The lack of consequence makes for a less humorous result than, say, The Hangover.

This is the kind of film your teenage boys will idolize.  If you are 25, not working, living with your parents, taking advantage of Obamacare and you have just purchased this film, your parents are paying the price for it.  If you are going with the guy who meets the above characteristics, dump him now, before you have to pay too.

(*** out of *****)

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