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As an entry in the emerging summer subgenre of "boys behaving badly in order to become men who behave marginally better,"Get Him to the Greek (Universal) had promise. It's loosely spun off from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a baggy but endearing 2008 comedy in which Jason Segel's schlubby songwriter protagonist endured sexual humiliation and cuckoldry at the hands of a British rock star, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). In that film, directed by Nicholas Stoller, Jonah Hill had a small part as an obsequious waiter who hovered about Snow, bedazzled by his aura of louche self-regard.
In Get Him to the Greek, also directed by Stoller, Brand returns as Aldous Snow, and Hill returns as a starry-eyed superfan—but a different starry-eyed superfan. He's Aaron Green, an A & R rep at a major record label that's desperately in search of the next big sound. Aaron's boss, the eccentric mogul Sergio (an enjoyably hammy Sean Combs), dispatches Aaron to London to baby-sit the hard-partying singer, whose career has hit the skids since he publicly abandoned sobriety a few years back. Aaron has to get Aldous across the ocean to New York to record a Today Show segment, then across the country to perform a sold-out show at the Greek Theater in L.A. On the way there, Aldous and Aaron will bond, they will barf, they will squabble, they will hallucinate, and they just might learn a little bit about themselves. We, on the other hand, will learn next to nothing about them.
If this frantically paced buddy comedy had a motto, it would have to be the one uttered by Spinal Tap's glassy-eyed keyboardist near the end of This Is Spinal Tap: "Have a good time ... all the time." There's no buildup, no narrative arc, just one scene of comically debauched partying after another. The only shifts occur in the locale (London, New York, Las Vegas, L.A.) and the substance being ingested: champagne, absinthe, heroin, and a joint that's laced with everything but the kitchen sink and innocuously nicknamed a "Jeffrey." Marathon revelry as a crucible for the forging of friendship is a time-honored trope, both at the movies and in college. But you don't come to value a person just because the two of you get shitfaced together. You come to value them because you embark on ill-advised escapades, share indiscreet confidences, inadvertently hurt and then sloppily forgive one another … while being shitfaced together. A good party movie understands this. But recent guys-on-the-town comedies like Get Him to the Greek—I'd also include Hot Tub Time Machine and Superbad in this category—seem so keen to amp up the hurt that they neglect the part about forgiveness.
Simply put, Aldous Snow treats Aaron Green like dirt for the majority of the movie, blithely endangering his job, enlisting him as an addiction enabler (and in one highly unpleasant and implausible scene, as a drug mule), and sabotaging his attempts to make amends with his sort-of-ex-girlfriend, Daphne (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss). That's all standard bad-boy behavior and could make for a fine setup—if Aldous ever apologized or did a favor for the long-suffering Aaron, who's so masochistic and passive that we ultimately lose patience with him, too. Instead, the movie's emotional climax has Aldous bleeding in a hotel swimming pool as he bends Aaron's ear about the loneliness of fame. This abrupt downshift from drug-fueled hijinks to maudlin confession is a lot to ask from an audience already wondering why we should care about either of these people.
Until it chickened out with an unearned happy ending, Judd Apatow's Funny People was smart about the way famous, entitled people lose their ability to navigate normal human relationships. The terrible things Adam Sandler did to Seth Rogen and others in that movie had real consequences. Aldous's misbehavior in the Apatow-produced Get Me to the Greek—and for fear of spoiling, I'll just say that he violates Aaron in at least two pretty profound ways—is seen as charmingly dysfunctional, at times even liberating. The movie closes on the image of Aldous Snow singing a new song, "Furry Walls," that he wrote to commemorate the boys' wild-party marathon. It's a goofy, soaring anthem (co-written by Jason Segel) that makes the whole experience sound so much more fun than it actually was.
Slate V: The Critics on Get Him to the Greek, Splice, and Marmaduke