Spin-off fails to recapture Brand’s eccentric humor

Two years ago, Forgetting Sarah Marshall made for another hit in the series of Judd Apatow-produced comedies. Penned by star Jason Segel, the film introduced audiences to the rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). With its witty jokes and subtle gags, Forgetting Sarah Marshall proved hilarious and showcased Brand’s scene-stealing Aldous as a breakout character. The success of the first film was apparently judged to warrant a spin off, but Get Him to the Greek essentially does away with almost all of the wit and subtlety of the movie that inspired it.

Make haste · In Get Him to the Greek, Jonah Hill’s Aaron Green (left) is charged with transporting vexing and washed-up rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) to Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre for a special concert. - Photo courtesty of Universal Pictures

With the music industry floundering, record executive Sergio Roma (Sean “P. Diddy” Combs) sends Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) to take rock star Aldous Snow to a 10-year anniversary concert in hopes of revitalizing record sales and Snow’s career. Aaron, a music enthusiast and fan of Aldous, jumps at the chance. The only problem: Aldous is back on drugs and proves impossible to control.

The film has an interesting premise, but ultimately fails because of clear shortcomings in the script. Whereas Segel’s blueprint for Forgetting Sarah Marshall kept things grounded and linear, director Nicholas Stoller’s film clearly tries to outdo itself at every turn with a series of absurd and increasingly unnecessary party scenes. By the third hedonistic montage, the gags have become so overblown that, while amusing at times, they diminish any elevated interest and make for a film that’s little more than a low-brow sideshow.

One problem is that the main characters seem almost like non-entities in the film. Hill’s Aaron is forgettable, simply serving as the target for a collection of over-the-top gags. His main arc, involving a distant girlfriend, feels inconsequential and uninteresting and never seems more than tangentially important to the film’s larger plotline.

Aldous, arguably the focus of the film’s premise, is more a vehicle for pointed comments on the music industry than the character he created in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Brand still manages to offer some of the film’s funniest lines — when not participating in the abuse of Hill’s character — and shows that a film about Aldous Snow could work, if handled properly.

Even the interaction between the two leads, in a film that is supposed to be a buddy comedy, falls flat. Hill and Brand, despite sharing multiple scenes, never really get a chance to bond: Aaron is usually more of a launch pad for Aldous’ next adventure than in that of a companion.

One notable part of the film is Combs’ Sergio. Loud, abrasive and inclined toward manipulation, Sergio is possibly the perfect example of a hit-or-miss character. When his jokes fail — and they do for half of the film — they fail miserably. Yet when he is funny, he manages to come close to Brand’s level of humor.

What ultimately brings down Get Him to the Greek is its focus; instead of centering on the buddy-film dimension or even just the characters, the film attempts to satirize the entire music industry. This unwieldy scope hurts the film from the start — the first 10 minutes are a cross between heavy exposition and out-of-left-field twists, turning Aldous from a world famous musician to a near has-been. From there, the rocker is saddled with a manipulative father, a renewed drug addiction and a relationship with a pop star.

Stoller seemed set on lampooning the music industry, but makes his targets too ambitious. Instead of scathing commentary — although there is a great comment on Metallica and Napster — the film delivers half-hearted shout-outs to various music industry clichés and wastes the character of Aldous by dragging him through trope after tired trope.

Similarly, the film offers an increasingly random series of cameos that serve no real purpose in the film other than padding. Everyone from Paul Krugman to the Harry Potter franchise’s Tom Felton enters and exits in scenes that could have just as easily been left out.

It’s not that Get Him to the Greek is an unfunny film. Brand and Combs offer some great laughs, and when the satire of the music industry works, it is very effective.

However, Stoller’s ambitious and absurd approach to the film ends up wasting much of the Aldous Snow’s potential as a character. In this case, Get Him to the Greek would have probably benefited from keeping in mind that too much of a good thing can indeed be bad, if the good thing is the witty, understated comedy of Forgetting Sarah Marshall that made Snow the breakout character that he is. Here, he is simply a vehicle for satire that fails.