Everywhere you go, people are asking the same thing, “What’s the deal with Russell Brand? Was he born that way? Is he, like, some Royal Shakespeare Company dude who just happens to play narcissistic rock stars brilliantly, like Laurence Olivier played Nazi doctors?” In fact, he is. Brand has been all of the above and more: a serious actor, a former stand-up comedian, a prank-calling controversialist, as well as a former Guardian sports columnist. And he has a past as notoriously chemical-deranged as the character he plays. Oh, and he’s funny, too.
Actually, Get Him to the Greek is dominated by the lanky, self-deluded character Aldous Snow, reprised from the sadly underrated 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But just when you think the shtick is tired, Brand (and Greek’s kaleidoscopic script) keeps bringing the joke back from the dead. This time we find Snow emerging from a lengthy binge brought on by the predictable failure of his pretentious CD, insensitively titled African Child (which is hilariously represented by fake videos). Jonah Hill plays Aaron Green, an ambitious young record company employee stuck with the do-or-career-die assignment of escorting the self-destructing Snow from his London flat to the Greek Theatre for a comeback concert. But the seemingly clichéd romp veers constantly between outrageous excesses (a drug named Jeffrey, a ménage à trois) and shockingly sweet moments of tender mercies. One long Las Vegas scene in which Snow meets his washed-out musician dad (Colm Meaney) brims over with both pathos and slapstick debauchery. But the whole film takes giant chances, both sobering and surreal.
Sean Combs, who apparently can do anything in the world, dominates the psychedelic moments—be sure to stay ’til the credits end. Even Lars Ulrich, Pink, and Christina Aguilera contribute. But it’s Brand’s show and he’s ingenious. He turns a cliché into a revelation about what it means to have a life when he finally arrives at the Greek; seriously wounded, Snow turns to the camera, transcends his crazy roles, and becomes for a moment quite touchingly human.