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'Greek' offers buddy film, road pic, rock 'n' roll vibes

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“Get Him to the Greek”
Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Rose Byrne, Colm Meany, Sean Combs, Elisabeth Moss
Rated: R

Judd Apatow is a modern comedic auteur.

First coming to the fore with TV specials involving Jim Carrey, Roseanne and Tom Arnold, through “The Ben Stiller Show” and “Freaks and Geeks,” to classic modern comedy films “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express,” Apatow has written, directed and produced an impressive body of work. He also has a fine group of actors he uses on a regular basis.

Apatow's latest work “Get Him to the Greek” finds him in the producer's role, and the film is among the best of his career.

In a previous Apatow production, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” we met the ostentatious, self-absorbed, English rock star Aldous Snow. He was clean and sober, after a history of alcohol and drug abuse. He still was completely captivated with himself, but as played by Russell Brand, he was somehow quite endearing. And for anyone who knows anything about rock 'n' roll superstars, Aldous was entirely believable.

Writer and director Nicholas Stoller, who directed “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” wisely figured that the character of Aldous Snow, and the charm - even if smarmy - of Russell Brand playing him, was worthy of his own film.

What he came up with is a decidedly R-rated comedy (sex and drugs and rock and roll...) that also manages to be quite touching at times.

“Get Him to the Greek” is a textbook “buddy picture” and “road film” that brings to mind the Peter O'Toole vehicle “My Favorite Year.” It's obvious that Stoller studied that 1982 Richard Benjamin-directed classic and did his homework well.

Jonah Hill, the portly and affable member of Apatow's stable who starred in “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” plays Aaron Green, the young, low on the totem pole record company employee who works for the megalomaniacal Sergio Roma. Roma is played by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, a guy who knows a thing or two about megalomania.

Roma assigns Green to go to London, get the now off-the-wagon Snow, get him to “The Today Show” in New York City and then get him to The Greek Theatre for sound check and a gig. This scenario is straight out of “My Favorite Year,” but in a different setting.

Aaron is desperately trying to keep Snow straight, but rock stars have their ways and the singer scores some heroin. His method of smuggling it is hilarious to the audience but quite uncomfortable for Aaron - a literal “pain in the rear.”

Snow can't help himself. He's been a pampered rock star since he was a teen. And Green is a huge fan, a decent guy and somewhat of the nerd character we're used to seeing Jonah Hill play. But their relationship develops and becomes very sweet.

Other relationships are between Aldous and his love/muse, female rock star Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), and Aaron and Daphne (Elisabeth Moss), a young doctor. Both of those subplots add a lot of romance to this comedy.

There are elements of “This Is Spinal Tap” at play here as well. Aldous' music is as bloated and pompous as anything The Tap did. He honestly tells journalists he can see himself as “The White African Jesus.” He also says he has no idea what his duties would be, but he thinks he'd be good at the job.

As self-centered as he is, it's hard not to like Aldous Snow. Russell Brand plays him perfectly. Jonah Hill as the woebegone and under-appreciated record company flunky who is as sweet as Snow is egotistical makes for a perfect companion.

As in most Apatow films, the humor and plot can get a bit coarse at times. But if you're a fan of rock 'n' roll and found the humor (and truth) in “This Is Spinal Tap,” there's a good chance you'll like this film.

Despite the rather slow third act, I found myself not only appreciating the juvenile humor  but liking the tender moments - and, of course, the sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. I grew up with rock 'n' roll and, as did the film “Almost Famous,” “Get Him to the Greek” has a ring of truth to it.[[In-content Ad]]

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