We throw around the phrase "party like a rock star" so casually, it's a little surprising that so few films have gone to the trouble of illustrating the notion. Nicholas Stoller's Get Him to the Greek does such a thorough job, I can't imagine anyone else will take a crack at it anytime soon. A "spinoff" (God, that always sounds so unwieldy) of Stoller's 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Greek takes the supporting character of womanizing rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) and places him center stage.
The clever, compact opening sequence brings us up to date: after the spectacular failure of his self-important, exploitative album African Child and the loss of his longtime girlfriend and collaborator Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), Snow has fallen off the wagon, and in a truly spectacular fashion. He's more of a self-indulgent train wreck than an artist these days, but when high-powered music executive Sergio Roman (Sean "P. Diddy" Combs) starts grilling his staff for new ideas, junior executive Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) puts one out there--the tenth anniversary of the celebrated Greek Theater concert by Snow and his band Infant Sorrow is fast approaching, so an anniversary concert (with tie-in pay-per-view, DVD, and CD) could be just the boost that both the artist and the label need. For his trouble, Aaron is given an impossible job: He has 72 hours to retrieve the rock star from London, take him to New York for a promotional appearance on the Today show, and then get him to the Greek for the big show.
The ticking clocks of those deadlines help give the picture a pulse and a good-natured, fast pace. Stoller is not the most inventive director--too many of his dialogue scenes fall into easy TV-style coverage, and when things go batshit insane in the Las Vegas suite late in the film, the chaos is too orderly, too controlled to cut loose the way it should. But he's good at creating a level-headed insanity, at setting up funny situations, putting broad but plausible characters into them, and following things through to their logical conclusions. His screenplay seizes on the most interesting beats of Jason Segal's script for Sarah Marshall--the later scenes, in which Snow was pulled out from his cheeky villainous construct and allowed enough complexity to give the central conflict some depth. It's easy to play the ridiculous navel-gazing twit (Eric Bogosian did a similar character, right down to the British ancestry and shallow charitable leanings, clear back in 1990's Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll), but in the third act, as he sees through Sarah Marshall's petty jealousies or gives Peter some laid-back, good-natured advice, the character become unexpectedly likable and memorable. In Get Him to the Greek, Aldous Snow is a real character, with fleeting moments of doubt, bitterness, vulnerability, darkness. Stoller's writing, and Brand's playing, navigates those transitions gingerly without circumventing the character's explosive comic potential.
Jonah Hill manages to take what is basically a straight man role and spark it up with his tossed-off readings and wide-eyed wonder; his big, moony face is his best weapon here, particularly in an uproarious shot that dreamily tilts down to Aaron bouncing on the dance floor, intoxicated by his first, sublime taste of absinthe. Hill and Brand make for a good team, with their Mutt and Jeff looks, complimentary sensibilities, and well-matched rhythms. Hill's on-screen relationship with Elisabeth Moss (from Mad Men) is also surprisingly well-done; it looks at first to be another credibility-stretcher from the Apatow factory (one of these guys should have an average-looking girlfriend, just once), but there is a giddy, playful vibe to their interplay, and when he reminds her of who The Mars Volta is by hitting a remote and playing a perfectly chosen snippet (and seeming to sing along), we're sold. (Stoller also leans their relationship into an unexpected but explosively funny right turn in the third act.) And Byrne plays the naughty pop star beautifully; her music videos are just a shade less subtle than those of Brand's current girlfriend, Katy Perry.
But Combs turns in perhaps the most entertaining performance in the movie--I again plead with him to quit his day job. As the seen-it-all music honcho, his straight-faced, barely-contained rage manifests itself in some of the best slow-burn comic acting this side of Edgar Kennedy. When he sits Aaron down and explains exactly how to handle the talent, he's practical and straight-shooting ("We don't lie to people," he explains, "we just believe invalid truths"), but he's got enough of a dangerous fire in his eyes (as he did in Made) that when he goes off the deep end in Vegas, you get why Aldous and Aaron run for the hills. The film also features a roll call of pop culture cameos (it's about the only film that could feasibly include both Paul Krugman and Pharrell), all of them in on the gag.
THE BLU-RAY DISC:
Get Him to the Greek hits Blu-ray in both its original, R-rated version, and an "unrated" cut that runs about four minutes longer. The differences aren't terribly noticeable--an extra gag here, an extended scene there--and the unrated cut plays about as well as the original.
Universal's MPEG-4 AVC transfer is bright and nicely saturated, adroitly vacillating between candy-colored daylight scenes and richly textured sequences of nighttime troublemaking. A strip club scene late in the picture is particularly noticeable for the thick, velvety quality of its interiors; the hot neon Vegas color is likewise well-rendered. Skin tones are natural throughout, and details are impressive. Contrast is somewhat weak in spots, but this is a top-shelf presentation overall.
The DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is dense, punchy, and nicely dimensional. The mix does full justice to the assortment of busy club scenes, which plunge the viewer into the out-of-control atmosphere, while concert sequences are robust and immersive, with a lively spread of enthusiastic crowd noise and heavy pounding bass making fine use of the LFE channel. The mix is at its best in the climactic Greek concert sequence, which is as vibrant and fun as the best "live in concert" discs. Dialogue levels, meanwhile, are well-modulated and always crisp and clean, even in the midst of the messy happenings on-screen.
French and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks are also included, as are English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
As expected for an Apatow production, Get Him to the Greek comes loaded with bonus features. First up is an Audio Commentary by writer/director Nicholas Stoller and cast members Jonah Hill, Rose Bryne, and Russell Brand (who wanders in around the 40 minute mark); Elisabeth Moss and producer Rodney Rothman join by phone, and Russell's bodyguard even pops in. It's a funny, giddy track, with big laughs and terrific stories (many of them concerning Combs). Other highlights include their description of shooting the big sex scene, Brand's tales of on-set sexcapades, and their questions about Byrne's stuntman ex-boyfriend. Stoller, while matching his stars for laughs, also gets across some genuine insight about the process of shooting comedy.
The featurette "Getting to Get Him to the Greek" (32:07) is a pretty straight-forward making-of affair, with plenty of behind-the-scene clips and interview sound bites, but it gets a little lift from the inherent humor of the interview subjects. "Getting in Tune with the Greek" (13:47) spotlights the music created for the picture, while "The Making of 'African Child'" (6:26) is a faux-featurette, with Brand in character as Snow on the set of the terrible video that opens the film.
Stand-alone music is plentiful, including five Music Videos for "African Child," "I Am Jesus," "Ring 'Round," "Supertight," and "Just Say Yes" (13:52 total); full performances from "The Greek Concert 1999" (6:34), "The Greek Concert 2009" (11:36), the Today Show performance of "The Clap" (2:34), the VH1 Storytellers performance of "Furry Walls" (3:22), the alternate ending song "Riding Daphne" (3:48), and the "London 02 Concert" (11:00); and Karaoke options for all of the songs in the film.
The disc is also BD-Live compatible, and includes the option to watch your choice of three Bonus Movies (Uncle Buck, Life, or Dazed and Confused).
The second, standard-def disc includes a Digital Copy of the movie and the rest of the extras. The two-part Gag Reel (10:18 total) is a lot of fun--particularly the clip of Hill and Moss reacting to a 4.0 magnitude earthquake during one of their scenes. The always-enjoyable Line-O-Rama (9:11) features alternate punch lines and extra bits; the music pitch meeting throwaway are particularly good. The "Alternate Intro: The Castle" (5:52) is a decent opener, but the faster, snappier version that made the final cut was a much wiser way to go; likewise, the "Alternate Ending: Riding Daphne" (3:17) is funny enough but not as strong as the re-shoot.
Seventeen Deleted Scenes (18:19) follow; most aren't really missed, though the extra Hill-Combs scenes are awfully good, and there is much more Kali Hawk, which is always a good thing. The fifteen Extended and Alternate Scenes (35:44) are pretty funny (particularly the extended conversation with Tom Felton of the Harry Potter movies and the several alternates of Hill trying to get heroin in Vegas). There's also a longer commercial for the Sarah Marshall show "Blind Medicine" (2:31), extended versions of the Interviews for The One Show, MTV, The Today Show, and The View (18:00), and Audition tapes for Byrne, Moss, Nick Kroll, Aziz Ansari, and T. J. Miller.
Get Him to the Greek hums right along, tackling its comic scenarios with wit and precision, and its throwaway gags are frequently just as funny as the big set pieces (Hill's Las Vegas heroin run takes what would be, in any other movie, a 20 minute sequence and compresses it into about 30 seconds of slam-bang hilarity). And mention should be made of the music, which is just well-crafted and catchy enough for Aldous's fame to be believable (I would totally have "The Clap" on my iPod), settling just on this side of parody. And what the hell, most pop music is self-parody these days anyway. If Get Him to the Greek doesn't quite match the emotional resonance of its predecessor, it more than tops it in comic ingenuity--and manages to get at something real and genuine about fame and fandom in its closing scenes. It's funny and sweet, and a damned good time besides.
Jason lives with his wife Rebekah and their daughter Lucy in New York. He holds an MA in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU. He is film editor for Flavorwire and is a contributor to Salon, the Atlantic, and several other publications. His first book, Pulp Fiction: The Complete History of Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece, was released last fall by Voyageur Press. He blogs at Fourth Row Center and is yet another critic with a Twitter feed.