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Brand a bright spot in 'Greek'

Posted: Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Get Him To The Greek"

Universal Pictures

1 hour, 49 minutes

Russell Brand, the bad boy of British comedy, has the potential to be a seriously talented performer. There are moments in this week's silly throw-away comedy spin-off "Get Him to the Greek" that are completely, and surprisingly, authentic. His character, Aldous Snow, who was just about the only watchable part of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," is an an eccentric, out of control, drug-addicted rock-star, and much of the movie plays to the ridiculousness of that. But occasionally, sometimes with just a single line or even a look, Brand turns this one-note joke into a real flesh and blood character you can really care about. It's this fact, and this alone, that elevates "Get Him to the Greek" from merely a collection of vomit scenes, interspersed with frantic sex and consumption montages.

It's odd to be so underwhelmed by most of a movie, but to be impressed by just one part of it. Unfortunately, Brand is not the only star in the show. The ostensible lead is Jonah Hill, the latest in a series of funny fat guys, playing music industry peon Aaron Green. Aaron, after sitting though a blisteringly abrasive meeting with boss Sergio, played with abandon by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, is given the opportunity of a lifetime.

Aldous Snow is a washed-up rocker whose life is now dominated by substance abuse, brought on, presumably, by a disastrous record called "African Child," which Newsweek estimates to be just behind war and famine as the most detrimental thing ever to happen to the Dark Continent. The video, which casts Snow as a "white African Jesus from Space," helped to torpedo a legendary career, but now that could all turn around. Green has the idea to have Snow play an anniversary concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, where ten years previous the rocker had had the most successful gig of his career. Now our young hero must travel to London and pick up the ever-inebriated Snow and bring him first to New York for a Today Show appearance, and then to L.A. for the show.

As you can imagine, the recalcitrant star has other plans in mind, and wackiness ensues. The simple trip to the States turns out to be a series of wild, drunken encounters typically ending with a scene of Green puking. Jonah Hill, as it turns out, is much funnier in small doses.

"Greek" is, occasionally, pretty funny. Whereas about 80 percent of the humor is either gross-out or just plain gross, some of it is pretty sharp and very well played. I don't know if 20 percent is a reason to go see the movie, but the few moments the script hits are genuinely laugh-out-loud.

It's too bad the film is structured so poorly. The plot, such as it is, is rudimentary and barely constructed beyond a series of scenes of debauchery. The flow is choppy, and it really feels as if no one, aside from Brand, is really even trying. That some of the jokes hit feels more like an accident than an example of genuine talent. The characters are all simply foils for whatever "shocking" scene is up next rather than following any logical course of action.

That is, except for Brand. This is not to say that Snow is a great character or anything. He's moderately funny, although funnier, I think, in "Sarah Marshall." He makes just as many ridiculous moves as does everyone else, but Russell Brand seems able to take the stupidity of the script and roll with it, producing an oddly nuanced performance.

One can only guess whether the success Russell Brand has lately been experiencing will continue. On paper, he seems to be the perfect performer to update Dudley Moore's classic turn as "Arthur," coming in 2011, but I can also see it being a huge flop. There's a sweetness to Moore's character that may elude the somewhat darker Brand.

On the other hand, maybe there is safety in familiarity. Aldous Snow was born out of the comedian's repertoire, and perhaps it seemed a logical choice to take on another eccentric drunken Brit. However it works out, I contend that Brand has the chops to have a long and successful career, if he wants it. I don't know if the actor has anything in common with his alter-ego, but here's hoping he's got a little more self-control.

Grade: C-

"Get Him to the Greek" is rated R for pervasive language, including graphic dialogue, nudity, violence, and scenes of sexuality.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.



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