When this movie started, I thought “There must be some kind of
mistake.” I thought I had somehow walked into the wrong theater. I came
in to see Get Him to the Greek, a comedy starring Russell Brand
and Jonah Hill, yet I was seeing images of a war-torn and
poverty-stricken Africa. I was understandably confused. But then Brand
showed up as rock star Aldous Snow, in the middle of shooting a music
video for his new single, “African Child.” The celebrity-worshipping
news-lite programs are on hand to discuss the song and its video,
showing that Aldous is doing this for charitable purposes that he’s not
entirely clear on.
I was hooked.
This is the first step the movie takes in showing us the absurdities
of the music industry, celebrity culture and the paparazzi surrounding
them. As the movie progresses, it paints a world without reason,
responsibility, restraint or sincerity, in which everybody is high and
set on kissing the ass of the most important person in the room. Also,
hit music is totally awful and overtly based on the “sex sells” theory,
though everyone loves it all the same (or pretends to love it).
Greek is also very unique in how it deals with drugs. Yes, the
film does deal quite extensively with the negative effects of drugs and
alcohol abuse, but frequently for humor without being tasteless and
never in a way that seems preachy. What’s more, the film subtly reminds
us that hundreds of our most legendary performers (The Beatles, The Who,
Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, etc.) could never have
given us their most famous and culturally important works if they
didn’t get astronomically high. Was the drug abuse worth it? I’d say
that the film leans toward the negative, but doesn’t give a definitive
answer. It never addresses drugs as good or bad things within the music
industry, simply that they are a permanent fixture there. It’s something
that must be addressed in any analysis of rock music and I appreciate
how it’s handled here.
The parody and satire here is on par with that of Tropic Thunder,
and Sean “Diddy” Combs gets to play this movie’s Les Grossman. Diddy
steals the show, playing a potty-mouthed exec with questionable sanity,
yet completely aware that he’s large and in charge. It helps that like
Grossman, Diddy’s Sergio is made the center of every scene he’s in. To
give an example, there’s a scene early on in which Sergio is holding a
conference amongst a dozen lesser execs. They’re all reluctant to give
any ideas, even before Sergio chews a couple of them out. Then Aaron
Green — Jonah Hill’s character — suggests booking Aldous for a
performance at the Greek Theater in LA for the 10-year anniversary of
his landmark performance in that same theater. Sergio responds with a
shrug before showing off his idea for a game-changer: A godawful rap
song consisting of two obscenities repeated over and over. Everyone is
dancing to it, either because they genuinely like it or because they’re
being sheep for their boss. I’m not sure which reason it is, but it’s
brilliant and funny either way.
Flash forward to a few scenes later, when Sergio — with no
provocation — says that Aldous’s performance at the Greek is on. It’s
seriously like he supported Aaron’s idea when it was first proposed.
This is where the film started to lose me.
There is precious little consistency or logic in how the characters
in this movie act. For another example, take Aldous: The guy is trying
to sober up and failing miserably, so of course he’s going to be batshit
crazy. Unfortunately, because the movie is about getting Aldous from
London to LA, the film goes where he goes. When Aldous wants to take a
detour, the film takes a detour. When he wants to skip a flight, the
film stays where it is. The plot only goes where Aldous wants it to,
which makes his capricious nature a big fucking problem.
There are also quite a few times when he leads the plot into a dead
end. I’ll show you what I mean: At one point, Aldous is set to play
“African Child” for the Today Show, only to tell Aaron at the last
minute that he’s forgotten the lyrics. So Aaron has to run through the
NBC studio and its audience, trying to find someone who knows the
lyrics. Showtime comes and Aldous still doesn’t know the lyrics. Five
seconds later, he decides to play a different song. Thus, the entire
story thread was made entirely pointless. This happens two or
three times in the movie.
But at least Brand still manages to find the heart of his character
and make Aldous interesting. The same cannot be said for Hill, who plays
perhaps the worst straight man in recent memory. See, the entire point
of a straight man is to act as a sounding board for the insanity
surrounding him. This is not effective when the sounding board is made
of tissue paper. Aaron has a thin dowel rod where his backbone ought to
be and his level of intelligence is far below what’s necessary to
effectively comment on what’s happening around him.
Aaron also has more than his fair share of actions that are either
inconsistent or just plain stupid. For example, there’s the entire love
subplot between him and Daphne, a girl whose ambitions, interests and
sleep schedule are totally incompatible with his. It’s therefore
inevitable that they should have an argument louder and angrier than is
warranted by the subject. But even when Daphne makes the reasonable
suggestion of shelving the argument until after the Greek gig, Aaron
continues the argument for no reason. And this happens in the
movie not once, but TWICE. There’s also a scene late in the movie in
which Aaron makes that final push to convince Aldous into playing at the
Greek. Not five minutes later, he’s telling Aldous that he doesn’t have
to play. WHAT THE HELL?!
Don’t get me wrong: I laughed at this movie and I laughed hard.
Unfortunately, the spot-on satire, the hilarious jokes and the often
unique visuals are all wrapped around a narrative that’s only held
together by chewed-up gum, safety pins and inconsistencies in
characterization. To that end, I have a very difficult time giving this a
recommendation. If you’re looking for a comedy and/or a few hilarious
jabs at the state of music today, you could certainly do far worse, but
it’s still not worth paying full price for.