Judd Apatow is the reigning king of the summer comedy. Sure, last year's Funny People was a bit of a disappointment at the box office, but since 2004 Apatow has been responsible for more hits than just about anyone. I'm talking about Anchorman and The 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad and Knocked Up. One of my favorites was Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was written by Apatow-alum Jason Segel (I Love You, Man) and directed by Nicholas Stoller. The story of a pathetic musical-comedy writer who goes to Hawaii in an attempt to forget about the chick who just dumped him, only to find her shagging an asshole rock star at the same resort, Marshall was a laugh riot and one of the best comedies of 2008.
While not a sequel per se, Get Him To The Greek plucks the asshole rock star, Aldous Snow (charismatically played by Russell Brand), out of Hawaii and gives him his own story. The British pop star was on top of the world until his new single, the hilariously awful "African Child," bombed so badly that the crater swallowed Snow's sobriety and long-term relationship. Across the pond, record company intern Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) is put on the spot by his boss (Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, playing one note but absolutely killing it in the process) during a brainstorming session and suggests a concert at L.A.'s Greek Theater to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of a mega-hit live album Snow recorded there. Diddy thinks this is a great idea and sends the neophyte to London to pick up the pampered rock star and get him to the Greek for his big show. Easier said than done.
From that set-up, you can pretty much piece together what comes next. In general: Snow is a giant pain in the ass, Green is as insecure as his name suggests, and a great deal of humiliation is played out in grand fashion. The pair party in London, barely make it to New York for an uproarious appearance on The Today Show, and jet to Vegas to catch up with Snow's estranged old man. Mass amounts of drugs and alcohol are consumed and someone takes a dildo up the ass. A sleepless car-ride later they're in Los Angeles, but in many ways Snow is no closer to rocking the Greek than before he left London.
Most of this is very funny (though the first half-hour is almost painfully slow), but only the Vegas scene hits that level of comedic transcendence that the best laughers achieve at will. That Vegas scene is also the only one that includes all three stars (plus Colm Meaney as Snow's crappy papa), which goes to show that it's the actors that ultimately make an uninspired story work. Yes, Brand is essentially playing "himself" (whatever that means), but he makes it all look so easy when it clearly couldn't have been. Apatow-favorite Jonah Hill gets straight-man duties here and performs admirably, though his best moments are the ones where he's finally allowed to cut loose and rant a bit. And again, Diddy is dynamite.
Add in a few choice cameos (how do you argue against a movie that features both Lars Ulrich and Paul Krugman?) and enough sex and drugs to kill a small commune, and what you have is a summer winner. No, I didn't enjoy it as much as Sarah Marshall, or many of the other Apatow-produced films for that matter. That said, Get Him To The Greek is a rude, crude comedy aimed straight at the boys — and it rocks.