Extremely raunchy, "Get Him to the Greek" is also very funny. Like the film that first paired Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, " Forgetting Sarah Marshall," the new comedy is unexpectedly sincere about the thing that matters most in a relationship: trust. It is also creatively diverse in exploring the ways boy-men — a misbehaving rock star on drugs, and his star-struck, increasingly addled handler — will be boy-men.
Yes, that old song again. Needless to say "Get Him to the Greek" comes from producer Judd Apatow's stable. But this we do need to say: The Apatow stable has given us everything from "Superbad" to "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" to "Knocked Up," films devoted to foul-mouthed Peter Pans slouching toward adulthood, each exceptionally rich in comic detail. This latest entry is modest in scope, but it works. It's not heinously slick and calculating the way "The Hangover" was; it actually feels a little bit personal, in the "Almost Famous" vein (though it's a lot crasser in texture, properly so, I think) and the stars are required to act, not simply clown around en route to the next payoff.
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" director Nicholas Stoller wrote and directed "Get Him to the Greek," and one of its satisfactions is seeing Hill develop into a comic actor confident enough to relax on screen. In "Superbad," Hill played a strident motormouth who couldn't shut up. That's a tough personality to vary (though God knows it was true to millions of strident-motormouth adolescents everywhere). Here, his jowls may fill the frame, but his instincts for hanging back and underplaying come through. There's a sweetness to his portrayal of Aaron, a record-company gofer charged with flying to London from LA to fetch a substance-infested rock star on the wane, played by Brand, for a comeback concert at the Greek Theatre.
Brand's outlandishly narcissistic preener Aldous Snow was introduced in "Sarah Marshall." (In the same film Hill played an entirely different character from the one he plays here.)
Looking like a butch Tiny Tim, his tongue lolling about in a perpetual invitation of some sort, Brand refreshes the cliche of the high-living, inwardly hollow showbiz icon. "Get Him to the Greek" follows a familiar road to redemption, as Aaron becomes hijacked by Aldous' excesses and eventually stands up to his boss. With an effective deadpan, Sean Combs plays the label executive who believes in the supreme power of the mind game.
There's a side trip to Las Vegas, where Snow's estranged father ( Colm Meaney) plays guitar in a Rat Pack tribute revue. I suspect audiences may be surprised at how seriously the story takes the father/son conflict.
We're not talking about Greek tragedy (though if they don't get to the Greek, it will of course be sad). As a director, Stoller's touch is uneven: When the trouble becomes violently physical in Vegas, the tone seems uncertain.
The bits I liked best are simple and confined. At one point, in a limo heading to the "Today" show, Snow wants very much to drink and to get high before wrangling with Meredith Vieira. Aaron's job is to prevent this from happening (though elsewhere he acts as his drug dealer, which Aaron grows to resent). As he gets progressively drunker and higher himself, Hill's nauseated reactions are priceless. He and Brand make a swell odd couple, and wisely the script makes time for its supporting players. Rose Byrne and Elisabeth Moss play the true loves of the self-doubting rock god and the wised-up music geek. The movie's a good, rude commercial comedy. How many good movies have we even seen this year?
MPAA rating: R (for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language)
Cast: Jonah Hill (Aaron Green); Russell Brand (Aldous Snow); Elisabeth Moss (Daphne Binks); Rose Byrne (Jackie Q); Colm Meaney (Jonathan Snow); Sean Combs (Sergio)
Credits: Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller; produced by Judd Apatow, Stoller, David Bushell and Rodney Rothman. A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 1:49.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun