A gag fest that fails to deliver
By Aaron Leitko
Friday, June 4, 2010
TV spinoffs have a spotty record. "Rhoda" couldn't carry the torch for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." "Joey" was a pale substitute for "Friends." It's rare that a previously established side character, no matter how well loved, can deliver the goods in his own show. Which is probably why nobody tries it with movies. Well, nobody but the makers of "Get Him to the Greek."
"Greek" is a spinoff of sorts, following the further exploits of hedonistic British rock star Aldous Snow, last seen getting straight and sober in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." But Snow has fallen on hard times here. A well-intentioned but enormously offensive single, "African Child," -- imagine Spinal Tap trying to write "We Are the World" -- has put his career into a nose-dive, sent his girlfriend and child packing, and caused him to relapse into substance abuse.
In an effort to resurrect his public image, the record company sends Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), an intern, to escort him from London to a comeback gig at L.A.'s Greek Theater. Green has his own problems, too. He's trying to salvage a foundering romance with his live-in girlfriend ("Mad Men's" Elisabeth Moss), who's ready to settle down. But at Snow's insistence, this British assignment -- which should involve little more than an airplane meal and an in-flight movie -- devolves into a three-day bender. Rather than acting like a grown-up, Green spends most of the film following Snow from party to party, guzzling absinthe and hiding illicit substances in uncomfortable places.
Like "Marshall," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" before it, "Greek" subscribes to the man-boy monomyth structure invented by its producer, Judd Apatow. You know, where oafish but kindhearted guys are called to put aside childish ways and, after having endured a certain amount of comic humiliation, embrace adulthood.
But the movie has trouble delivering on that formula. Unlike its forebears, "Greek" lacks a truly sympathetic central character to hold things together when it's time to get sappy. Russell Brand's rock star -- a speech-slurring Keith Richards-meets-Noel Gallagher parody of excess -- feels like he dropped in from a "Saturday Night Live" sketch. Meanwhile, as the record company lackey, Hill is less straight man than human punching bag: His romantic subplot is quickly buried under a hail of crude gags and body blows.
"Greek" wisely puts the sentimental stuff on hold for as long as possible, delivering fake-out after fake-out -- including a botched father-son reunion for Snow and a particularly uncomfortable reconciliation for Green and his girlfriend. When the heartfelt resolution comes, it's tacked haphazardly onto the film's final five minutes. And at that point, why bother? The laughs worked well enough.
Contains strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive foul language. 109 minutes.