The funniest line in the trailer and TV spots for Get Him to the Greek is nowhere to be found in the film itself. In the promos, a barf-streaked Jonah Hill escorts the fallen rock star played by Russell Brand to a live interview with Meredith Vieira and obliviously slurs, “Is there a bathroom here at the 'Today' Show’?”
It’s a deliriously absurd moment that encapsulates everything appealing about writer-director Nicholas Stoller’s sequel of sorts to 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall. So why omit it? The movie is almost two hours long, and vast stretches cry out for the cutting-room floor, so it’s not as though the filmmaker was the least bit concerned with delivering a trimmed-to-the bone final cut.
That is just one of several questions raised by this picture. Another one is: Why isn’t it a better time? The ingredients for a major-league laughathon would appear to be in place. Judd Apatow is in the producer’s chair. Brand reprises his breakout role as British rock god Aldous Snow. He’s even fallen off the wagon and is casually setting Guinness records for celebrity excess.
For his part, Hill would seem to be the perfect choice to play Aaron Green, a desperate-to-please record-company underling. He’s charged with dragging the debauched has-been from London to New York (for that truncated “Today" show sequence) and then on to the titular L.A. venue for a comeback concert — all within 72 hours. Hill’s character is Brand’s opposite in every way. How could knee-slapping hijinks not ensue?
Don’t ask me. For the most part, they simply don’t. The movie is long on premise and surprisingly short on, well, surprises. Do we not expect Snow to mess with the fawning shlub sent to put an end to his 24-hour partying? Did we not come to see Hill’s dweeby character sucked into the world of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, a world where he proves preposterously out of place? Do we really have the slightest doubt as to whether he’ll get the preening egomaniac to the show on time?
And, this being an Apatow production, are we not guaranteed a combination of raunch and heart-tugging tenderness? While hardly envelope pushing (Stoller’s idea of cutting-edge crudeness is having characters say the word “vagina” whenever possible), the movie’s raunch quotient does yield its meager bounty of merry moments. For example, on a plane, Green tries to stifle a sneeze after hiding a balloon of heroin up his bum at Snow’s insistence. He’s terrified that, if he lets it rip, his bowels will evacuate. The result is perhaps cinematic history’s most comical sneeze — a sound that suggests someone sitting on a gerbil.
But we do not buy tickets to a Judd Apatow production for the silly sounds, now, do we? What we have here is a great idea for a comedy and a script that’s at least a dozen rewrites away from greatness. There isn’t a single laugh-out-loud scene in Get Him to the Greek, and the closest thing to a shock is Sean Combs’ show-stealing turn as Hill’s boss, a gonzo record-company owner. Of course, the only viewers it will take by surprise are those not aware of the musician’s well-reviewed work a while back on Broadway.
The final act abandons all pretense of outrageousness in favor of warm and fuzzy bonding between Snow and his handler. But do not expect to be overcome with emotion. Well before the rock star hits the stage, my guess is you’ll be ready to hit the nearest exit.