There are dozens of Los Angeles venues where a burned-out rocker could do a comeback show, so why does Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Aldous Snow have to perform at the Greek Theater?
(The answer in a moment -- but first please sequester any impressionable children or prudish grown-ups.)
Ready? Get Him to the Greek is nominally the story of the struggle to transport an uncooperative, occasionally incoherent Aldous to the Greek for the concert, but its true and essential purpose is to make music-biz flunky Aaron Green (Jonah Hill, in gee-whiz rather than wink-wink mode) stick various objects where the sun don't shine. The latest OMG comedy from the Judd Apatow factory, this rock-'em-shock-'em assault is another cinematic riff on the terrified fascination of young straight with "Greek"-style sexual intercourse. The two sex scenes occur mostly off-camera, but both of them are three-ways with inescapable implications: One is boy-girl-boy and the other is boy-girl-dildo. (That the childlike, beachball-shaped Hill is not many people's idea of a sex god makes the kinky stuff funnier, but also a little safer.)
Writer-director Nicholas Stoller doesn't tailor all the gasp-till-you-laugh situations to this theme, it's true. Bad-boy comedy's target audience also loves to watch people get blotto, so the story is plastered with psychoactive substances, from absinthe to adrenaline to a oversized joint seasoned with chemicals only an idiot would ingest.
And yet even the berserk-stoner motif plays to the movie's primary fixation: Just before entering an airport security line, a panicky Aldous orders Aaron to insert a newly purchased bag of dope into the body cavity certain to draw viewers' loudest groans.
Narratively, the setup is so simple that Stoller must repeat it four times to stretch his movie to feature length: Aaron arrives in a city, locates a self-pitying and/or totally bombed Aldous and drags him to the next stop: first London (cue the Clash's "London Calling," of course) and then New York, Las Vegas and finally Los Angeles. Direct flights, it would appear, do not exist in the world of the episodic on-the-road farce.
The journey is complicated by Aldous' ex (Rose Byrne), father (Colm Meaney) and mother (Dinah Brand), and by Aaron's boss, played by Sean "Diddy" Combs in an energetic if one-note performance. There are also unmemorable walk-ons by such rockers as Lars Ulrich and Pink, and a cameo by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman that he'll surely regret once the absinthe wears off.
The movie opens with a hilarious rock-video parody in which Aldous poses as a Christ-like figure in a war-torn sub-Saharan country, singing his spectacularly condescending flop single "African Child." But it's the only one of the film's stabs at music-biz satire that draws blood.
Fans of Sarah Marshall will be pleased to hear that Brand's deadpan narcissism remains amusing, and his marmalade-thick Cockney accent is a hoot -- especially after we learn that Aldous' father is Irish and his mother speaks in the brittle tones of an aristocrat. Yet Brand's character, who combines Bono's moral sanctimony with Keith Richards' supernatural hedonism, ultimately doesn't add up.
At bottom, Get Him to the Greek is a Hollywood flick, which means its walk on the wild side must end at the corner of Boring and Sentimental. After busting every available taboo, Aaron will surely return to his pretty but unglamorous girlfriend (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss).
She's a good person -- an aspiring doctor! -- and she wants to move from decadent L.A. to suburban Seattle. This is how Stoller, after pushing the movie to the very edge of the R rating, proves he didn't really mean it: by getting its hero a thousand miles away from the Greek.