Eugene Weekly : Movies : 6.10.10


Stage Fright
A half-cocked sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall
by Jason Blair

GET HIM TO THE GREEK: Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller. Cinematography, Robert D. Yeoman. Music, Lyle Workman. Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Elisabeth Moss and Sean Combs. Universal Pictures, 2009. R. 109 minutes.

Jonah Hill and Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek

As the bumbling, stumbling Get Him to the Greek lurched to a conclusion, I could sense the restlessness of unmet expectations. Audiences have moods, or temperatures, that aren’t adapted to extremes, and Get Him to the Greek opens like a cold shower and ends with a bucket of ice down your pants. After all, Greek is a roundabout sequel to the underrated Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a film with the balance of sorrow and humor so essential to successful comedy. Returning for Greek is Marshall’s director, Nicholas Stoller, as well as bad boy Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), so audiences could be forgiven for anticipating some measure of comfortable fun. Instead, we get a setback to the genre. 

Greek is the story of nitwit Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), an intern for Pinnacle Records who agrees to escort Aldous Snow to his concert at the Greek Theater. Befitting a film that underachieves to such an epic degree, the premise of Greek is its greatest asset: Ten years ago, the Greek was the scene of Aldous’s finest live performance, although nowadays that event seems several lifetimes ago. Aldous, a once great rock star, has not been heard from since the release of his disastrous album African Child, preferring instead to spend time under the influence of a drug cocktail that would turn a herd of ponies into statues. Despite his shining wit he’s a massively unpredictable scoundrel, a fact that ensures, once he and Aaron reach New York, a benevolent disaster during his appearance on the Today show.

As with any marathon, the last leg is the hardest, so Aldous detours to Las Vegas to visit his father (a generic Colm Meaney). For the first time, the spark of humanity touches Aldous: Although his dad is equal parts indifferent and spiteful, Aldous still craves his father’s approval. That is, when Aldous isn’t screwing some groupie. 

Frustrating and dull but rarely offensive, Greek lands in Vegas and embraces its inner misogynist, portraying women (when it even bothers to portray them) in a most sordid fashion. The film reduces the feminine mystique to idiots and manipulators, from the party-girl scenes so familiar to Aldous — he often controls with whom his hangers-on have sex — to Aaron’s girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men) proposing a threesome with Aldous, having heretofore been depicted as a conservative workaholic. It’s a female whack-a-mole: When women are present, they get pummeled.

There is a giant script problem in Get Him to the Greek, or rather, a constellation of problems. I’ll focus on two: No arc and no heart. The former is surmountable; the latter is not. It’s a funny thing about movies: They only work if you care about the people in them. I spent much of the interminable 109 minutes of Get Him to the Greek waiting for the film to improve, but like a cheating spouse or a terminally ill patient, it wasn’t going to get any better. In a film year that’s somehow nearly half complete, Greek easily is one of the worst releases so far.