We have sequels and franchise reboots or remakes up the wazoo this summer, but it feels like it has been forever since we had a movie spin-off. I know there are tons of them on television these days, but TV spinoffs seem to be a necessity, especially with shows like “Law & Order” and “CSI” where they are never ending. We’re gonna have “Law & Order: Los Angeles” in the fall, proving that the cancellation of the one that started it all never ended anything. Personally, I’m waiting for “Law & Order: Barstow” and “CSI: Chico.” Now those would be the ones to really shake things up!
In fact, the last time we had a movie spin-off was “US Marshalls” which took Tommy Lee Jones’ character of Sam Gerard from “The Fugitive” and gave him his own movie. Looking back, it was more of a remake of “The Fugitive” than anything else.
Now we have “Get Him To The Greek” which takes Russell Brand’s character of spaced out rock star Aldous Snow from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and has him starring in a new movie. Give Hollywood some credit here for being a little more creative than usual. By making a movie based on a supporting character from another, they show an air of confidence that usually only pretend to have.
Whereas Aldous was drug free in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” he has fallen off the wagon big time in this one as we watch him suffering the after effects of a horrible song he wrote and recorded called “African Child.” It is declared to be the worst song of the decade, and places second to apartheid as the worst thing to happen to Africa. The love of his life, Jackie Q (Rose Byrne from “28 Weeks Later”), ends up leaving him along with their son Naples, and he proceeds to go on one drinking/drug binge after another as his life goes from worst to intolerable. Then he hits rock bottom, but that doesn’t stop his spiral any.
Several years later, a record company intern named Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) brings up at a meeting with the boss that it is coming up on the 10 year anniversary of when Aldous performed a concert at the Greek Theater, one which resulted in one of the best selling live albums ever. After Aldous confirmed with Aaron’s boss Sergio (Sean Combs) that he will do a new show to celebrate this occasion, Sergio sends him out to England to fetch Aldous and to make sure that he does make it to the concert on time.
Judd Apatow is of course behind this one as a producer, and the setup reminded me a lot of his movie from last year, “Funny People.” Big fan meets his celebrity idol, finds that being where the celebrity is can be the loneliest place of all, and they somehow connect at the end in a way they never thought they would. But this one is just a flat out comedy and has none of the dramatic edge of “Funny People.” Its humor is vulgar and crude, but like all good Apatow productions, it also has a heart.
Like “Knocked Up,” “Get Him To The Greek” exists in the entertainment world we all know of in real life. Hearing Aaron talk about how a new concert will spur large revenue for the record company, allowing them to re-release Snow’s back catalog in new remastered editions with bonus material struck a cord with me. I always fall for that stuff myself; remastered CD’s where you actually feel like you’re in the room with the band while they’re playing. I have been an addict of these updated versions ever since I bought the remastered edition of Eric Clapton’s “Behind The Sun.”
This is not to mention all the cameos from artists like Pink and television personalities including Meredith Vieira from the Today show. You even have Mario Lopez and Kurt Loder poking fun at their public perception, something they probably would not have done ten years ago. “Get Him To The Greek” does not take place in some fairy tale world where everything ends up all nice and tidy. The laughs end up stinging much more here because they remind us of all these other celebrity controversies the media thrusts at us every single day of our lives.
Russell Brand’s own drug addled past has been chronicled for some time now, so part of the fascination with watching him here is figuring out where he ends and the character of Aldous Snow begins. Regardless of how out there he may seem in the media, there is something about his personality that makes us watch his every move. Not once does he do anything to hide his character’s hedonistic ways, and he scores one solid laugh after another. I’m not sure what to say about him as an actor because I haven’t really seen him in anything else, but watching him again as this character was indeed worthwhile.
Jonah Hill also was in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” as a waiter, but here he plays an entirely different character. From “Superbad” to “Funny People,” he’s been basically playing the same kind of role over and over again. Here, he plays his most grown up character to date (in a matter of speaking). As Aaron Green, he also gets to lose his trademark hairdo that makes him look like Little Orphan Annie. Clearly, his high school days are now behind him, and he has laughing at the most insane and compromising positions his character keeps stumbling into. Jonah even has a great “Pulp Fiction” kind of moment, but I leave it to you to see the movie to discover what that means.
But while Russell stole every other scene in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” he almost has this movie completely stolen from him by Sean Combs. That’s right, P. Diddy is in this movie as record company executive Sergio Roma, and it allows him to parody his own image as a hip hop entrepreneur. I actually forgot that Combs has been doing some acting here and there, but what I loved about his performance is that you never get the feeling that he was trying to be funny. The more serious he gets, the more gut-bustlingly hilarious Sean becomes, and no one sells the term “mindf**k” the way he does. It’s easy to fall into the trap of playing for laughs instead of playing the scene, but Combs never falls victim to it here.
You also have some nice supporting performances from actors like Colm Meaney, the “Star Trek” journeyman actor who plays Aldous’ father Jonathan, and he makes this man anything but a father figure. Having used his drug addicted son for his own gain, it is very surprising that these two actually bother to be in the same room together. Rose Byrne also has some great moments as the love of Aldous’ life Jackie Q, and her own music is ridiculously controversial in its own terms.
“Get Him To The Greek” was written and directed by Nicholas Stoller who also helmed the film this is a spin off of. Nicholas does good work here although he does let the pace drag some towards the end, and there are lulls where you are waiting for the next big explosion of laughter. All the same, comedy is hard work, so you have to give him credit for the loud laughs he gets out of us.
Is this as good as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”? Not quite. In fact, “MacGruber” was a funnier movie in retrospect, regardless of its audience (the kind that could appreciate the humor mind you) not showing up when it was released. The plot itself is no different from a lot of road trip comedies, and you could compare this one a bit to John Hughes’ “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” when you think about it.
Still, I had a lot of fun with it, and it is easily more fun than a “Geoffrey.” Trust me; just see the movie and then you will know what I am talking about. I’m sick of giving away the best parts of movies anyway.
*** out of ****
Forgetting Sarah Marshall