Get Him to the Greek

When the world slips you a Jeffrey, stroke the furry wall

Comedy lost its footing a bit when the “frat pack” movies became the norm.  Anchorman, Zoolander, Talladega Nights and so on – not that they weren’t funny and didn’t have their place, but there was a certain immaturity and high-school level intelligence about them that made me groan whenever a trailer came on.  With recent efforts such as The Hangover, Date Night and Get Him to the Greek, well-written films with both hilarity and heart, the comedy planets may be aligned again.

Get Him to the Greek is a thoughtful story disguised as a gross-out comedy.  The difference with films like this in comparison to the frat pack movies is that there’s a nice diversity and freshness to the cast.  In Anchorman, you had Will Ferrell and Steve Carell and Paul Rudd and Ben Stiller messing around.  In Talladega Nights, you had the same group of buddies doing something else.  These actors have all moved on to better and more mature projects, stepping aside for those of us who are ready for wittier comedies in a day and age where we get almost daily reminders about how the American public’s intellect and patience are devolving.

This film features comedian Russell Brand reprising his brief role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall: the druggie rockstar Aldous Snow.  He is deepened this time around, dealing with his personal rehabilitation and family problems, as well as his ex-girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) who happens to be dating Metallica’s Lars Ulrich.  Ulrich appears as himself and receives the butt-end of some nice self-deprecating jokes, the best of which is Brand’s line, “Go sue Napster, you little Danish twat.”  The main action of the film follows Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) as he attempts to please his controlling girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss).  After suggesting to his totalitarian boss, Sergio Roma (Sean Combs), that the best course of action for the music industry is to bring attention back to “real music,” Aaron is tasked with delivering Snow to a reunion show at the Greek Theater in LA.  Tension is high since Snow’s last album, released ten years prior, was an incredibly racist and insensitive ballad about Africa, though I’m not sure which would be more harmful to young music-television viewers in the real world; “African Child” or Jackie Q’s “Ring ‘Round,” which as she says in the film, is about her…well, just go see the film.  The well-produced music video interludes and news stories, which often feature annoying real-life celebrities acknowledging that they’re annoying, is worth the price of admission.

It’s a nice premise with good, not-so-incredibly-blockbuster-level-famous-celebrity actors in the lead roles.  Brand and Hill are still low enough on the Hollywood food chain that they have to actually act to convince an audience, and these performances are genuine.  The plot gives plenty of room for serious interaction between the two, as well as the great appearance of Colm Meaney in a supporting role as Snow’s money-grubbing father.  Sean Combs, the gratingly obnoxious hip-hop mogul (apparently turned actor), more or less plays himself in this film.  Needless to say, he’s right at home playing a loud, abusive, uncaring, over-the-top boss, and the role is limited enough that his appearances are refreshing and funny.  

It’s worth noting that Brand actually performs the songs in the film, and when it comes time for him to sing, he sings.  In fact, the producers were so confident in Brand’s vocal prowess that the entire soundtrack features purely original tracks from the film (including Jackie Q’s thinly-veiled innuendo anthems).  It’s an inspired decision because Brand’s rockstar character is not a novelty act; he’s portrayed as a serious artist with serious problems, and the fact that this actor is the frontman of a band is not the joke (whereas Will Ferrell’s comedies – the previously mentioned ones as well as Semi-Pro and the upcoming The Other Guys function on the novelty of Ferrell himself holding position X).  

A film hilarious enough to brighten a rainy day or entertain a high-school teen, but heartfelt and thoughtful enough to please the filmgoer who wants real characters and a good story, this one is worth getting to the theater to see We have a strict “no cliche” rule here; sorry.  Suffice it to say that if you’re only going to see one summer-opening comedy, you should make it this one.

 Get Him to the Greek (2010); written and directed by Nicholas Stoller; starring Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Rose Byrn and Elisabeth Moss