First there was Judd Apatow, who gave us The 40- Year-Old Virgin, which led to Knocked Up, which begat Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
You know the drill: raucous, sex-driven comedies peopled by characters with hearts of gold.
Well, except maybe for Aldous Snow, the lanky, wildeyed, full-of-himself Brit rocker played by lanky, wild-eyed, quite probably full-of-himself Russell Brand in Sarah Marshall. There wasn’t much gold in his heart. His was likely pumping liquid ego.
It was Sarah Marshall that begat Get Him to the Greek, a movie that the late Ian Dury could have been singing about in his ode to excess, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. But only if he added in something about drinking.
There are no Greeks in Get Him to the Greek. It’s about a place, not a person. A contemporary tale about the woes of the music business, the film tells of Sergio, a powerful Capitol Records executive, smartly and hilariously played by Sean Combs, who tells his roomful of clueless executives-in-training that, damn it, he needs some fresh, new ideas.
“What about Aldous Snow?” asks eager young Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), the only person in the room who’s actually a music fan.
It seems that Aldous, whose career has been sliding, is coming up on the 10th anniversary of his triumphant concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. What if, suggests Aaron, he does another gig there? It would revive both Aldous and interest in his back catalog.
The title reveals what the rest of what this is about.
Sergio sends happy, nice guy Aaron to London with stern instructions: Grab the drunk, heroin-addicted, hedonist rocker (Sergio also labels him “slippery and conniving”), bring him to a Today Show appearance, then, yup, get him to the Greek… on time and in good shape.
So this is both a spinoff of that earlier film and — I’m stretching here — a remake of Grips, Grunts and Groans, in which the Three Stooges had to keep a wrestler named Bustoff sober and get him to the ring on time.
It’s too bad that the film takes a while to get a groove going. We first spend too much time learning about Aaron’s difficult relationship with his workaholic girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss), and Aldous’ with his, the much more successful rock star Jackie Q (Rose Byrne).
And there’s an overabundance of predictability around Aaron trying to get Aldous on one plane, then the next, then the next, when hard-partying Aldous would much rather be swilling down booze or rolling in the hay with some groupie.
But once they hit American soil, and The Today Show takes an unexpectedly good-natured beating (kudos to Meredith Vieira for being such a sport), things kick into gear.
A gifted comic actor, Hill portrays a widespread range of emotions and physical tics. Brand, who played it much bigger than life in Sarah Marshall, outdoes the weirdness factor here. But he, too, has no trouble showing a softer side, if only briefly. Both guys have great faces, with which the cameras get very up close and personal.
One of the reasons the film works so well is that it was written and directed by Sarah Marshall writer-director Nicholas Stoller, who knew he had something special with the Aldous Snow character and hit all of the right beats in opening him up this time. Another right call was putting Sean Combs in such a funny part, one that he absolutely owns. Stick around to the post-credits bitter end, and you’ll even see him give a raunchy shout-out to Ferris Bueller.