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2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall fit snugly into the niche Judd Apatow had built at the time, a story about a pudgy and flawed everyman who learned to overcome his selfish impulses and pick the right girl. It was raunchy and outrageous while reconfirming the importance of love and long-term relationships, and it managed to encourage ordinary people like Jason Segel's character Peter to pursue their dreams even while introducing us to the egomaniacal, undoubtedly talented rock star Aldous Snow. Aldous was the movie's best character by far, and for all the movie worked to keep us rooting for Peter, Aldous was the one we all wanted to be.
So, as an encore to a surprise hit, we now get that chance with Get Him to the Greek, a manic road movie companion to Forgetting Sarah Marshall's tropical relationship dramedy. Like the first movie it is written and directed by Nick Stoller, and it stars Russell Brand as Snow, who has fallen seriously, seriously off the wagon thanks to a breakup with his wife Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) and a career meltdown following the ill-considered single "African Child" (you can probably guess why that one didn't work). Over in Los Angeles schlubby young record exec Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) has the brilliant idea of staging a 10-year-anniversary concert for Snow's band Infant Sorrow, and as a reward is sent to personally retrieve Aldous from his drug-induced haze in London, swing him by The Today Show in New York, and, er, get him to The Greek in time for the show.
You know pretty much how things go when a straitlaced regular guy is paired on a road trip with a loutish maniac, and Get Him to the Greek strays only very rarely from the formula. Its most successful wild card is Sergio, the eccentric record exec played by P. Diddy with an over-the-top intensity that may or may not have been intentional, but sure winds up hilarious. Other than that, it's business as usual-- Aaron gets drunk while trying to keep Aldous sober, Aaron is forced to carry drugs through airport security, Aaron throws up in inappropriate places and constantly pocket dials his live-in girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss), who wasn't all that happy with him even before he left for the trip. The parties get wilder as they move across the country, hitting a ridiculous high when Sergio shows up in Las Vegas, and finally Aldous and Aaron arrive in Los Angeles exhausted and ready to deal with the emotion-heavy third act.
The biggest change between Marshall and Greek is that the first movie dealt with its heavy topics-- heartbreak, infidelity, career stagnation-- in gradual bits, sprinkled in among the wild jokes and raunch. Greek on the other hand is more like a nonstop party until someone got a script note that these characters had to turn into real people at the end. Aldous has a nice phone call with his ex-wife from Los Angeles, and his attempts to figure out his life throughout make a much better emotional fulcrum than Aaron's struggles to love and support the beautiful, smart girlfriend he lives with (yeah, tough life). But it all gets to feel like a little much at the end, sucking away the momentum the film had managed to build through all the party scenes, and clobbering us with the revolutionary notion that this movie is funny, but it has feelings too.
And it's not as if Greek has momentum to spare. Stoller once again directs and cuts the film as if he has all the time in the world, letting bits play themselves out far too long, leaving in improvs that needed to be cut, and constantly repeating jokes in a way that indicates the script was more like a suggestion than an actual guide for the production. That pays off in some ways-- I'm sure much of P. Diddy's insanity wouldn't have come in if he'd stuck to the script-- but also tilts Greek more toward the juvenile than the clever, leaving you feeling like you're watching a bunch of buddies joke around together, not a movie. That works well when the director can rein things in, but Stoller is more enamored with his characters than anyone in the audience will be.
The fact that much of Greek is funny-- crassly funny, sometimes obviously funny-- saves it, and may even allow you to forgive its indulgences and sing along to the song about furry walls at the end. Brand and Hill do make a good team, and Brand especially proves why he was a character worth creating a spinoff around-- he's magnetic and endearing, even at Aldous's rock-star worst. The movie that surrounds him is even shaggier than his rock star lifestyle, but at least it gives us the chance to hang out with him again.