Of the flood of Judd Apatow-produced or -directed films to come down the pike in recent years, I’d have to pick Forgetting Sarah Marshall as the one I enjoyed the most. A lot of this comes down to the film’s often sweet nature and rejection of Apatovian arrested-development romanticism and too many gross-out gags. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a surprisingly congenial and, yes, enjoyable one.
Now, from its remains, we have Get Him to the Greek, a film built around Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘s rock-star badboy Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). The original film’s director, Nicholas Stoller, is also back at the helm. The prospects were shaky. Though Brand’s creation of a self-absorbed, absurd musician was easily the most entertaining aspect of Sarah Marshall, a minor character in a slight film isn’t exactly the most promising of concepts when stretched over 109 minutes.
But it’s neither the character nor the concept that makes the movie not quite work. Whatever joie de vivre Sarah Marshall had going for it seems to be gone, and the main culprit seems to be Stoller, who has taken over the writing reins this time around from Jason Segel. What we get in exchange is something a little darker and rough around the edges and a whole lot less likable.
The film has Aldous as completely washed up (due mostly to an unfortunate attempt at a socially conscious bit of condescending music called “African Child”), less a musician than drug-riddled paparazzi fodder. That is, until a sad sack record-company intern named Aaron (Jonah Hill) tries to resuscitate Aldous’s career with an anniversary concert at the Greek Theater in L.A. The only problem for Aaron is that he has to get the unruly, prima donna Aldous from London to California in three days.
The film follows your basic road-movie formula, with Aldous and Aaron starting off as an odd couple, with the bulk of the humor being grounded in Aldous pushing Aaron into awkward—or worse—situations, usually of the drug-induced nature. A lot of your enjoyment is going to depend wholly on how much the film’s brand of vulgarity, non sequiturs and various pop-culture references appeal to you. Stoller takes the approach of throwing so much against the wall that eventually something will stick. There are some genuinely funny bits here and there, but there’s even more that simply doesn’t work.
These aren’t the only problems Stoller’s movie has. There’s an attempt at showing Aldous in a sympathetic light, depicting his bouts of drug use—which usually pop up for a laugh—as a result of loneliness and daddy issues. But this shot at pathos is closer to bathos. It verges on mawkish and sentimental and is an awkward turn for a movie that spends so much time attempting to be shocking and vulgar. Rated R for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language.