There’s much to laugh at in Get Him to the Greek;
a viewing of the film will be rewarded with lots of guffaws and giggles
and even a few uncontrollable belly laughs. Russell Brand is terrific,
and Jonah Hill does good work, and there are lots of funny scenes
throughout. But it’s a movie that refuses to stay with you, whose jokes
work in the moment and are gone as soon as you leave the theater. Weeks
later I’m still quoting lines from MacGruber;
weeks later I’m having a hard time remembering what the really funny
bits in Get Him to the Greek were, exactly. I mean, I know I
laughed. I just don’t really remember why.

I think what holds Greek back
is the story; a loosely constructed clothesline upon which the film’s
multi-city events are hung, there just isn’t enough there there. The
story’s in trouble right at the start: Jonah Hill is an up and coming
record exec and his girlfriend, Mad
Men
‘s
Elizabeth Moss, is a hardworking young doctor. He gets the chance of a
lifetime when his boss demands he take a 3 day trip to escort famous
rock star Russell Brand from London to LA for a gig at the Greek
Theater; meanwhile Moss has a major opportunity to go work at a better
hospital in Seattle, where she’ll have human hours as opposed to the
endless shifts she works now. Hill’s only going to be gone three days,
but Moss insists on having a major fight about them possibly moving to
Seattle instead of waiting to talk about it on Monday. This is somehow a
major crisis point in their relationship, causing them to break up.
It’s a flimsy premise, and it’s indicative of the flimsy premises that
litter the film. Each scene, while funny, seems predicated on the
flimsiest of premises (some of which never even pay off – see Jonah Hill
running around, causing chaos backstage at The Today Show, a gag that
doesn’t actually go anywhere). If the jokes were transcendent I might
not mind the premises – God knows the Marx Brothers weren’t putting
their effort into crafting stories for the ages – but they’re simply
not.


The
times when the comedy is strong enough to forgive the weak set up are
almost always when Sean Combs is on screen. Make no mistake – this is
Puff Daddy’s film. He’s nothing short of amazing, and totally willing to
go up and above and beyond for the jokes. Half the fun is the slightly
uncomfortable way that he takes to the absurdity of his character, a
manipulative record mogul, but the other half of the fun is how damn
straight he is in every scene. He takes the goofiest, oddest bits and
infuses them with a deadpan seriousness that doubles their comedy value.
He’s incredible, and honestly the entire film is worth seeing just for
him alone.

What bums me out about the weak story is that there are
strong character bits within. Brand’s character, who fell off the wagon
since Forgetting Sarah Marshall and
whose career has tumbled into the gutter with him, has a nice arc
that’s sweet and sad. It’s probably heavily influenced by Brand’s own
life as a famous womanizer and drug addict, and I like the way it
doesn’t paint an addict with the same boring After School Special brush.
But it’s also weirdly disconnected from the story of Jonah Hill’s
character. The movie was made because of the chemistry the two showed in Sarah Marshall, but many of the scenes feel like
Hill and Brand are playing apart from each other, not off of each other.
They’re in the same room, but having their own experiences. I wanted to
see these men bouncing off of each other more. 


In his own little universe Hill is strong as well, but
again, it feels like he and Brand are not quite connecting. Hill’s
character is the biggest fan ever of Brand’s band, but that feels
incidental to what happens in the movie when it should be utterly
central. There are very few scenes of the two men stuck in a small space
together; while that would be kind of a hackneyed buddy moment it would
also allow the two characters to get to know each other on any level.
When a depressed Brand turns to Hill at the end I didn’t quite buy it; I
know that the conceit here is that the famous guy has no friends and so
he must turn to this record company guy, but there was so little going
on between the two characters that I’m surprised Brand even thought of
Hill at the end. He seemed to treat the guy like a driver. 


Any movie that has a cameo from Paul Krugman earns my
respect, and there’s a lot to like in Get
Him to the Greek
. It’s a funny movie, but it’s a movie
that feels like the improv within the scenes overtook any sort of a
larger story. The thin connective tissue is enough to get you through
the movie, but it’s not enough to make it particularly memorable. I
think Nick Stoller is a very able director, and he’s great with actors,
but I wish more time had been spent tightening the story beats to make Greek a more
complete experience.


7 out of 10