Friday, June 18, 2010



- Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of my favorite comedies of the last few years, so I was hoping that its spinoff of sorts, Get Him to the Greek, would recapture some of the humor and heart that made FSM such a hilarious and entertaining film. Get Him the the Greek is plenty funny, but at the end of the day, it's too generic and predictable to truly be considered great. Entertaining? Yes. Very funny? Also yes. But not quite at that top-tier level of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Nothing that reaches the comedic high of Dracula: The Musical.

That said, GHTTG is squarely in the Judd Apatow mold of vulgar-yet-sweet comedies about guys suffering from serious arrested development. It's a premise that's made for some great movies, but also one that is beginning to wear a little thin. I think a real turning point for me was Apatow's Funny People, a movie that seemingly failed to realize just how unlikable and self-absorbed its main characters were. It wanted us to root for them even as we increasingly began to dislike them. Now, Greek is a much more broad, over-the-top comedy than Funny People, and so it can get away with a lot more. And yet ... a little of that same self-indulgence creeps in. It's one of those movies that is made by entertainment industry people about entertainment industry people, and therefore feels very insider-y at times in a way that's somewhat off-putting. At certain points, you can practically hear the studio execs chuckling in the background at jokes that most others will probably not be as into. The movie can come off as slightly smug.

But, it's also, quite often, really funny. There is some spot-on dialogue that's performed by a really funny cast. Jonah Hill is in top form here. His comic delivery seems to get a little better and sharper with every movie he's in. And he gives his character an empathetic, relatable, and likable quality above and beyond what's in the script. Russell Brand is also on top of his game here, reprising the character of Aldous Snow to hilarious effect. I like Snow because, I think, part of the joke is that he's like a 70's rock star transported into 2010. I don't know in what world a guy like Aldous Snow would ever have been a chart topper, but it's definitely a funny world. Brand gets some absolutely killer lines and comedic moments in the film, and he makes the most of them. The big surprise though is P. Diddy. I'm not saying he's the next comedy superstar or anything, but the guy has some pretty great delivery and timing. It helps that his character - a music industry exec - is totally off the wall and insane, but Diddy does well for himself and is definitely a scene stealer. There is also a constant parade of cameos from people who are both actually funny (ie Aziz Ansari) and ironically funny (ie Mario Lopez) -- but, the end result is a fun atmosophere in which you never know who will show up for some screen time.

Basically, the movie follows the adventures of Aaron (Hill), a young record company employee, as he tries to successfully escort wild-child rockstar Aldous Snow (Brand) to his big comeback show at the Greek Theater in LA. Aaron is trying to keep Snow from self-destructing and not blowing his once chance at career rehabilitation, all the while trying to figure out his relationship with his girlfriend Daphne and trying not to succumb to fall prey to the vices of the rockstar lifestyle himself.

The various hijinks that Hill and Brand get themselves into make for some really funny scenes. At the same time, the movie overall feels a bit jumpy. The plot never quite flows as smoothly as it should, and certain big character beats seem to basically come out of nowhere. The movie is predictable enough that we all know where things are heading, and so there's that effect where a lot of the movie seems comprised of amusing little detours on the way to the inevitable conclusion. I guess my point is that, as funny as the movie is at times, it's also pretty by-the-numbers. And that's fine, sometimes, but this also isn't a movie with a lot of heart, per se. As I alluded to earlier, this isn't a movie with super-likable, empathetic characters - so basically, we don't care necessarilly that they all get their happy ending, we just want want to see them in crazy, funny, ridiculous situations. The fact that the movie ultimately tries to be sentimental and Hollywood-happy is, perhaps, to its detriment.

I'm also not quite sure how I feel about Elisabeth Moss as Hill's live-in girlfriend. She seems likable enough at first, but their relationship is given the short shrift for much of the movie. Later, one raunchy sex scene in particular comes off as completely awkward and disturbing given the character that Moss had been playing up to that point. By the end of the movie, it's hard to care much about the central relationship given all the weirdness that's gone on between the two characters. Again, it's sort of that Funny People syndrome, where the script wants us to forgive and root for these characters even after they do some pretty off-putting stuff, in scenes that aren't even 100% played for laughs.

At the end of the day, Get Him to the Greek is a very funny comedy, although it never quite lives up to the potential of its funniest jokes. There are moments of true hilarity in the movie, but the plot and characters are never all that appealling, and there isn't that undercurrent of authenticity that made Sarah Marshall so great. Director Nicholas Stoller clearly has a real knack for this sort of comedy, but I'd love to see him tackle themes and characters that don't feel like such a product of a guy entrenched in the Hollywood scene. But hey, it's been a pretty bleak summer, and Get Him to the Greek is a movie that's worth checking out in the curent box office wasteland, despite its flaws. Not amazing, but admirably funny.

My Grade: B

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