Get Him to the Greek
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Now that The Hangover has officially ended the Judd Apatow monopoly on raunchy bro-comedy, it makes sense that we’d get an Apatow production that seems like a House of Judd reprise of that movie’s rollicking hedonism, albeit with an added dollop of sentimentality. It’s not as effective as director Nick Soller’s last effort, the sweet but raucous Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but it’ll do in a pinch.
Glammy UK export Russell Brand reprises his role from that film as Aldous Snow, a sort of amalgam of Pete Doherty’s prodigious drug use and tabloid currency, a touch of Bono’s noxious superiority, with a bit of Weilandesque glam sleaze for good measure. He’s meant to be performing a 10th anniversary gig at the Greek Theater in LA in order to boost his label’s sagging bottom line, and eager trained monkey Aaron (Jonah Hill) has been tasked with getting him there in one piece, relatively drink- and drug-free. Since this is an Apatow production, we also have (tender!) romantic complications, here provided by two unlikely actresses mostly known for their work on basic-cable dramas, Rose Byrne (Damages) and Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men).
Most of Greek‘s pleasures tend to be derived not from the debauchery on hand, but from the comic rapport between its leads, as well as a madcap comic turn from Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, who goes for broke as the label head with a habit of “mind-fucking” people into submission. That Diddy can act shouldn’t be a surprise (lest we forget he had a celebrated Broadway run a few years back), but his outright scene-stealing is a bit shocking. That said, Hill finds his best showcase yet here, playing Aaron as actually somewhat less of a schlub than the usual Apatow protagonist. Brand dials down his persona a bit to allow some sensitivity to creep into the appropriate scenes.
Unfortunately, Greek does not blend its broadly comedic and dramatic elements nearly as well as Marshall or even Knocked Up did, relegating its female support to hollow plot points – Moss in particular is wasted as a character who literally sleepwalks for three-quarters of the running time, which is especially disappointing since her contribution to the film’s last half-hour proves she’s actually pretty funny when afforded the opportunity. Outright useless is Byrne’s Jackie Q character, a vacuous UK pop singer who holds the key to Snow’s heart. Byrne does her best in an odd role (including some more-than-suggestive music videos), but the efforts made to complicate Snow’s character through her are very transparent. (A brief appearance from Colm Meaney as Snow’s father is a little more successful.)
That being said, with pickings as slim as they are at local multiplexes for anything approaching a good time, Greek is a perfectly fine midsummer trifle, neither disappointing nor truly transcending expectation, but providing a decent time at the movies if you’re willing to forgive a few glaring flaws. (Final complaint: can we retire the idea, in all circles of culture, that midtempo, three-to-five member rock music is the pinnacle of all possible musical or even artistic endeavors? Whenever this line gets trotted out the urge is felt to reach back in time and have Jann Wenner killed before his first Cream concert.)