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Get Him
to the Greek

How you feel about Get Him to the Greek depends entirely on how you feel about Aldous Snow. Sure, "The Clap" was a great song, but a lot of fanboys are still bitter about him shagging Sarah Marshall. Then he left Infant Sorrow and recorded "African Child," and I think everybody knows what crap that was.

Still, Aldous (Russell Brand) is the last of a dying breed, except as Sergio Roma (Sean Combs) points out, British rock stars pretty much don't die. It's been ten years since the height of Snow's fame, with an incredibly popular concert and live album from the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. The music industry could definitely use a shot of the adrenaline that Snow used to offer on a regular basis. Luckily, he always keeps a syringe on hand…

The summer comedy scene could also use that same shot of adrenaline, and writer/director Nicholas Stoller delivers it while still managing to tell a decent story with (gasp) real character arcs. Even if the morality hidden under the muck is a little mawkish - this is a Judd Apatow-produced film after all - getting there more than makes up for it.

A quasi-sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Greek reteams Brand with Jonah Hill. This time, however, Hill plays Aaron Green, an up and coming music executive facing that horrible moment when you realize that achieving what you want may not be anywhere near what it's cracked up to be, if you're really achieving it at all.

It's Aaron who suggests to his boss that Snow be revived and redeemed by revisiting the Greek. A life-long fan of Infant Sorrow, Aaron offers up the heretical notion that what's killing the music industry is the lack of actual music.

So Stoller throws in some commentary, but right from the get go, it's also obvious that Snow's problems are caused by himself. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the world loved his airheaded pretentiousness, but in the first few minutes of Get Him to the Greek, it reaches its nadir with the recording of "African Child," a song in which Snow compares the pain of his coddled existence to starving in Ethiopia - or some country like that, because he's not really too sure of the details.

More pressing is whether or not his costume for the video reflects an African Jesus from Space or an African Space Jesus. It's for others to decide.

Aldous Snow is hardly the first cinematic rock star to be desperately in need of a clue. But Stoller gets the fall out of the way early, so that he can devote the story to building Snow back up. It helps that Brand really is a rock star among comedians, an outsized personality that swings from profound to perverse and back again with no warning.

He's also not bad by actual rock star terms, either. Infant Sorrow's music sounds like somewhere between The Smiths and Green Day, and once you get past the purposeful stupidity of some of the lyrics, the songs are actually good. It may be painful to say it, but "The Clap" is outright catchy.

Snow's lost love Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) fits the other side of the spectrum, a pop princess spouting inanities with a driving beat and making sure to over-explain her metaphors. To say she's based on anyone in particular would be unfair, but maybe we can at least let Christina Aguilera off the hook as she actually appears in the movie.

That, too, is part of the cleverness of Stoller's work, starting out outrageously fictional then weaving in enough real world elements that it all becomes believable. The only thing that may take you out of it is Combs, funny enough, but whose own life carries a lot more weight than his character's; it becomes downright jarring when Pharrell shows up calling him Sergio.

But we've seen enough movies documenting how wild the musician's lifestyle can be, and despite what Sergio says, a few Brits have succumbed to their excesses. It's a careful line that Stoller treads, every now and then letting Snow's mask slip and show that underneath it all, he really is in pain, a god of chaos who doesn't know how to stop.

Deep down, he knows it, too, and Brand underplays that so even though the turns are clearly visible, he keeps them believable. As does Hill, finally playing a real person and not just a foul-mouthed joke machine.

Together they make a pretty good comedy team, just the right kinds of different energy playing off of each other to push things right to the edge. It might be interesting to see them team in some other roles, but for now, Get Him to the Greek is funny enough to watch a few times.

Derek McCaw

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