'Greek' a rock-star comeback for Apatow
By Randy Myers
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Judd Apatow — the current king of movie comedy — took an admirable risk last summer with the bloated and terribly self-involved "Funny People." The Adam Sandler film took a nose dive at the box office, a fate it deserved.
This summer, the creator of crowd-pleasers such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" rebounds mightily with "Get Him to the Greek," one of the funniest, raunchiest and edgiest comedies in years.
The outrageous "Greek" works better than "Funny People" at least in part because Apatow, who tends to make films that meander, hands over writing and directing duties to a protege — "Forgetting Sarah Marshall's" Nicholas Stoller. Instead, Apatow produces "Greek," just as he did with the terrific teen comedy "Superbad."
Although the funnyman didn't pen "Greek's" Thumbelina-sized plot — about Aaron (Jonah Hill of "Superbad"), a record company employee's misadventures getting an obnoxious Brit rocker (Russell Brand) to a comeback concert in Los Angeles — his fingerprints are all over it. That's most apparent in "Greek's" themes about the slavish desire to be a celebrity and the tragic consequences of superstardom.
Sound heavy for a flick that consistently makes you laugh so much you want to shout "uncle"?
Well, yes, but Stoller ably juggles the broad physical comedy and the more serious overtones. Whether it's a hysterical scene involving a furry wall in Las Vegas and a humongous drug-filled cigarette or one involving a menage a trois that evolves into something much more unsettling, the filmmaker's always in command.
At every turn, "Greek" mixes vulgarity and seriousness with ease and does so by trimming out any flab and grossing things up even more than what we're accustomed to in an Apatow film.
"Greek" undoubtedly benefits from its stellar cast, especially Brand as the obnoxiously narcissistic rocker Aldous Snow. "Sarah Marshall" fans know Aldous from an appearance in that goofy comedy that added much of its spark. (Hill, too, co-starred in "Marshall" but he doesn't reprise his role here.)
Another treat is all the rock-star and TV-personality cameos, including Lars Ulrich, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mario Lopez and Meredith Vierra.
In "Greek," Stoller makes Aldous a real person rather than a ridiculous buffoon. The fallen rocker suffers not only from a drug addiction but suicidal thoughts. He also carries a torch for his pop-queen ex-wife Jackie Q (Rose Byrne of TV's "Damages") and is emotionally scarred by parasitic parents.
It would be easy to imagine an actor wanting to make Aldous more endearing, but Brand stays true to the part throughout, never making the seemingly shallow man truly likable; he humiliates his chaperone Aaron at every turn.
As Aaron, Hill plays his perfect foil. He becomes almost too eager to take the bullet for Aldous, chugging booze and doing drugs so Aldous doesn't. Is that from wanting to accomplish his mission? Or is it because he secretly longs for the rock 'n' roll lifestyle? Those questions add dimension to the film, which totters at the end by wrapping up things a little too neatly.
But the real scene-stealer turns out to be P. Diddy, aka Sean Combs, as the mad-dog, Red-Bulled record producer Sergio. Combs' comic timing is impeccable and he owns every moment he's on screen, whether staring incredulously at his terrified staff or turning rabid after doing drugs.
What a delight he is, and what a welcome summer surprise "Get Him to the Greek" is: A bold and hilarious comedy that says something astute about us, our idols and how all that sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll really isn't everything it's cracked up to be — especially if you are the one caught in its cross hairs.