By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
The highlight of the tastelessly hilarious Forgetting Sarah Marshall was Russell Brand, an Englishman but not a gentleman, whose portrayal of a decadent and dim rock 'n' roll star stole the show.
That character, Aldous Snow, lead singer of the mope-rock group Infant Sorrow, deserved his own movie. Now he has one — Get Him to the Greek — and writer-director Nicholas Stoller doesn't always know what to do with him. The movie is like an old vinyl LP; the best cuts are on the first side, there's a bangup finish and a lot of filler material in between.
The irresistible opening catches us up on Aldous since Forgetting Sarah Marshall (with a funny cameo by Kristen Bell). He has been sober for seven years, with his career ruined by a racially insensitive song deemed the worst single of the decade. His latest girlfriend, Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), dumps him for a parade of still-shining stars. Aldous is a relapsed has-been about to be redeemed by a never-was.
Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) is a yes man for music recording mogul Sergio Roma (Sean "P. Diddy" Combs), who could be the next movie spinoff. Sergio is desperate for a big payday and wants ideas now.
Aaron is a devoted Infant Sorrow fan who suggests a concert at L.A.'s Greek Theater marking the 10th anniversary of a live album the band recorded there, with all its ancillary sales. Sergio loves it, and Aaron has 72 hours to pry Aldous from London to the show. (Don't worry that such a project would take weeks to produce.)
The result is a series of misadventures too convoluted to explain and too raunchy to describe in a family publication. Get Him to the Greek is a comedy steeped in drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll, in that order of attention to comedy. Drugs provide the most gags but narco jokes get tiresome by the time absinthe, heroin and an adrenaline needle come into play.
And, if you're making a comedy about rock 'n' roll, the songs need to be somewhere near Spinal Tap quality. Aldous' playlist is middling mockery of rock until the very last song, which is a comical callback joke.
In the film's midsection, Aldous becomes a darker character than necessary, taking the comedy level down with him for a while. Brand is a former sex and heroin addict himself, so Aldous becomes a bit too much of a purging of past sins. Aaron gets to be his lumpy punching bag, which is jolting after he has been such a sweet protege in vice.
But the odd coupling works, thanks mostly to Brand throwing himself into Aldous' hedonism to hilarious effect. Get Him to the Greek is a second-class act with a terrific frontman. Suddenly it feels safer to know that it's Brand reviving Dudley Moore's role in a remake of Arthur.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs. tampabay.com/movies.