Working as a sort-of sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek may not have that film's occasionally serious emotional undertow, but pound for pound (which is not a fat joke aimed at Jonah Hill) it just might be the funniest summer film of 2010.
Frumpy music exec Aaron Green (Hill), under orders from his motor-mouthed boss, Sergio (Sean Combs), must get faded, drug-addled rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) from London to L.A. to play a comeback gig at the Greek Theatre. While this seems like a straightforward assignment, Aldous turns out to be quite a handful, and with Aaron nursing a broken heart after a big blow-up with his girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss), he is easily distracted by the easy sex and the powerful drugs that go hand in hand with his charge.
That description makes Get Him to the Greek sound like an international version of The Hangover, but it turns out to be more than just a wild ride through a few hedonistic days in the party-hearty life of a superstar. Nicholas Stoller, who has learned well from producer Judd Apatow, instills just enough personality and humanity in the characters to make them people rather than just cardboard cutouts.
Brand, reprising his breakout character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, captures all of Aldous' unchecked self-absorption without sacrificing an ounce of charisma -- he's a near-perfect fusion of Jim Morrison, Noel Gallagher, and Pete Doherty. By maintaining that egocentric base, Brand makes sure the film never gets too soft, even when there's a poignant -- and still hilarious -- scene between Aldous and his son. As far as comedy duos go, he and Hill are a perfect match -- it's funny just to stare at the two of them side by side. But Hill, who is a savvier performer than he gets credit for, doesn't rely on just his lumpy physique to score laughs. Watching him slowly lose his wide-eyed innocence and hero worship of Aldous -- especially when his idol forces him to be his personal drug mule -- gives the film a subtle, and necessary, emotional arc. The two characters complement each other perfectly because Aldous is an emotional infant and Aaron looks like a cherub with five-o'clock shadow, and thanks to each other they both grow up a little.
But don't make the assumption that the comedy stops for big touchy-feely moments of emotional truth and revelation. Those scenes are there, but they never feel like major tonal shifts -- the warmth is interlaced with the comedy, and the whole cast pulls off the emotional balancing act. Sean Combs surprises with a performance so good that he's funnier than Chris Rock or Martin Lawrence have ever been onscreen; Elisabeth Moss has a quirky delivery that meshes with Hill's line readings in a way that makes us feel that they really are a couple; and a handful of inspired cameos -- the less you know who to expect the funnier they are -- keep the laughs coming along at a steady clip.
Director Nick Stoller, who also helmed Forgetting Sarah Marshall, has a gift for knowing exactly how much time to spend on a joke. While the out-of-control Vegas party builds with a steady anticipation that pays off in a burst of slapstick lunacy (imagine the Alfred Molina sequence from Boogie Nights minus the threat of death), he also creates a montage covering Aaron's first night partying with Aldous that plays like anyone's fragmented memories of their most drunken escapade. Throw in a promo for yet another TV show starring Sarah Marshall, and Stoller's versatility becomes readily apparent.
With so much skill in front of and behind the camera, it's little wonder that Get Him to the Greek proves to be a well-crafted, screamingly funny comedy.