Russell Brand as Aldous Snow
Jonah Hill as Aaron Green
Elisabeth Moss as Daphne Binks
Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs as Sergio Roma
Rose Byrne as Jackie Q
Colm Meaney as Jonathan Snow
Aziz Ansari as Matty
Lino Facioli as Naples
Kali Hawk as Kali
Nick Kroll as Kevin
Ivan Shaw as Pinnacle Executives
Ellie Kemper as Pinnacle Executives
Derek Resallat as Dr. Coltrane
Dinah Stabb as Lena Snow
Kristen Bell as Sarah Marshall
Roger Joseph Manning Jr. as Infant Sorrow Keyboardist / Guitarist
Sean Hurley as Infant Sorrow Bassist
Victor Indrizzo as Infant Sorrow Drummer
Elena Beuca as Monique
Directed by Nicholas Stoller
The music industry is on the skids and Junior A&R executive Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) has an idea that can help the record label survive by getting his favorite musician, rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), to play a comeback show at L.A.’s Greek Theater. His boss Sergio (Sean Combs) agrees and sends Aaron to England to retrieve Snow with three days to get him to Los Angeles for the important gig.
When it was announced Jonah Hill and Russell Brand would be reuniting after their chronic scene-stealing in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” for a spin-off sequel (of sorts), that movie’s fans probably wondered what more could be done with them. That film’s director Nick Stoller takes point this time around, writing and directing what ends up being a riotous road comedy that offers almost as much heart as it does humor.
When the film opens, an undefined time after “Sarah Marshall,” Aldous Snow is about to make the biggest career gaff of his life, releasing an offensive and distasteful song called “African Child,” which sends his career into a tailspin. When his long-time girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) leaves him, Aldous’ confidence follows suit, and he falls off the wagon into his previous drinking and drugging ways. This is where he’s at when A&R guy Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) shows up to retrieve the difficult rocker for his comeback show, leading to a three-day promotional tour from hell as Green finds himself being dragged into the worst situations from scoring heroin in Vegas to being assaulted by the skanky groupies that follow Snow everywhere. When he’s not trying to please the boss, Green is at home trying to please his career-minded girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss), often to his own detriment. She wants to take a job in Seattle, which would force him to leave the job of his dreams, but Aaron goes against her wishes and takes the assignment, enabling Snow to put his new chaperone through all sorts of unspeakable hell.
At first, it may be hard to believe Brand is capable of playing Snow as more than a one-note character because his mock music video and talk show appearances that open the movie aren’t promising. As the story progresses and Snow’s relationship with Green gains more depth, it’s obvious Brand has developed this character far beyond what he was able to do in “Sarah Marshall.” In fact, Brand shows himself to be quite a fine actor in the way he can bring a wide emotional range to this very specific character. Similarly, Hill builds upon what he proved he could do in “Superbad” as far as creating a loveable schlub character who audiences can easily empathize with as he’s relegated to playing Snow’s whipping boy. While not quite on par with a Segel or Rosen as a romantic lead, Hill’s scenes with the ultra-cute Elisabeth Moss as his girlfriend are really special and make for a nice counterpoint to the rowdier moments in the film.
On top of the fun of watching two great comic actors at the top of their game playing off each other, there’s also the P-Diddy Factor as rap mogul Sean Combs, who hasn’t really appeared in many movies, finds a way to steal every scene he’s in much like Mike Tyson did in last year’s “The Hangover.” Rose Byrne is almost unrecognizable as Snow’s sexpot former girlfriend.
In terms of showing the ups and downs of the music business, “Greek” is on par with some of the great rock movies from “This Is Spinal Tap” and “Almost Famous,” which brings a validity to the humor that’s often a little too close to reality. So many rock musicians have achieved the heights of fame only to make that one career decision that’s impossible to recover from and other than VH-1’s “Behind the Music” or last year’s excellent “Crazy Heart,” we rarely see how it affects the musicians in the long-term as they desperately try to hang onto their careers while doing what they love. Unfortunately, the songs aren’t that catchy or memorable, lacking anything that would make one think they’d have made Snow world famous.
The duo’s antics on the road just get more and more outrageous as they get closer to the deadline when Snow has to be at the Greek for the show, leading up to a rather awkward moment once Snow fully infiltrates himself into his companion’s life. Maybe because it’s based in the debaucherous world of rock ‘n’ roll, “Greek” is funnier and possibly even raunchier than “Sarah Marshall,” but it is also full of true emotion, especially when Aldous tries to reconnect with his estranged father (Colm Meaney) and reconcile with his ex, as Aaron tries to work things out with his own girlfriend after she learns what he’s been doing on the road. Those who saw “Sarah Marshall” should also get a giggle or two out of the Easter Egg nods Stoller gives to his previous film.
The Bottom Line:
Not really a comedy sequel as much as a clever spin-off that allows the two actors who helped make “Sarah Marshall” so hilarious to flourish on their own, it’s hard to say whether “Greek” will be a movie that stands the test of time, but it certainly stands a good chance at being one of the funniest comedies this summer.