Friday, June 11, 2010

'Greek' is a very funny, character driven comedy

On paper, “Get Him to the Greek” sounds like a calculating money grab. The film takes a supporting character from the moderate hit “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and spins him off into his own film. Hollywood loves a sequel, even just a sort of sequel, and name association matters more than quality, but low and behold the return of Aldous Snow is a hilariously worthy one.

Although “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” has a following, for many this will be the first introduction to British comedian-turned-actor Russell Brand's Aldous Snow. This is fine as this new film is completely self-contained.

Aldous is a bundle of hard-partying and hard-drinking rock 'n' roll cliches. In a bid to stir up revenue in a struggling music industry, a record label head (Sean “Diddy” Combs) sends one of his flunkies (Jonah Hill, who, in an odd decision, is playing a different character than the one he played in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) to bring Aldous from London to Los Angeles for a 10th anniversary concert at The Greek venue.

For Hill's Aaron, this is a big break and it seems like an easy enough gig, but Aldous draws Aaron into his rock-star lifestyle leading to a long line of delays that nearly causes them to miss the big concert date. That's pretty much it in terms of the plot, but the film is more than what it seems.

The trailer makes it look like nothing more than a string of wild party scenes, but half the gags in the trailer aren't even in the film. There are plenty of wild, crude and outrageous comedic situations, but there's also a surprising amount of character development.

“Get Him to the Greek” is the latest film to come from the Judd Apatow stable. Whether as a writer, producer or director, his name has been associated with some of the biggest comedies of the last five years or so including “Knocked Up” and “Superbad.” The formula is simple: raunchy, low-brow humor paired with heart. What is so unexpected is the amount of sweetness that is found in this rock 'n' roll tale.

Apatow is in the producer role this time with Nicholas Stoller (who also directed “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) writing and directing. Stoller, like so many of the actors and writers that Apatow surrounds himself with, has a keen sense of warped, anything-goes sense of humor paired with an ability to create genuine, human characters.

That combination is most evident in a detour to Las Vegas to see Aldous' father (Colm Meaney), a back-up musician for a Rat Pack cover band. There's father-son bonding mixed with an uneasy tension that is both comedic and that oddly carries a certain amount of dramatic truth. The film never gets too weighed down in heavy emotions, and this sequence takes a glorious turn for the weird when Combs' Sergio shows up to get Aldous and Aaron back on track.

Brand and Hill have a real comic chemistry together and they make this material work. There's also a clear sense of the two bonding and becoming friends. That connection is what grounds the film and makes it more than just another dumb comedy.

Although he is essentially playing a variation of his real-life persona, Brand is actually quite good. He can act, sure, thus far, he can only play one thing, but few people can even do that. He has a distinct screen presence and not only can deliver a comedic line, but when required, he can handle emotional moments well. Brand is set to star in a remake of the Dudley Moore movie “Arthur,” and, based on his work here, that seems like a good fit.

Hill, who in films like “Superbad” had a more maniac persona, dials down his broader comedic tendencies to give a more low-key and amicable performance. He makes an ideal foil for Brand. Combs, who does actually own a record label in real life, has fun lampooning the music industry and his own persona. The man has comic timing and steals several scenes.

The music in film is lyrically very amusing, but musically not bad and Brand is believable as a rock star. There are some authentic-looking parodies of music that are also on target — particularly those featuring Rose Byrne as Aldous' pop star ex-girlfriend Jackie Q.

“Get Him to the Greek” is raunchy to be sure, but stick with it because it is also truly funny and features characters worth getting to know.

1 comment:

Yana I. said...

This movie was fn funny. While I was at the movie I saw a trailer for "41 year-old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It". They did it for less than a million dollars, but it is as good as somne of those big budget spoofs. I got it at Blockbuster. It's stupid, but worth a laugh.