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Friday, October 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 61.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Get Him to the Greek tries to humanize a shallow idiot
The trouble with complexity
Satisfying gags, faulty premise.
Satisfying gags, faulty premise.

I get why the concept of a spinoff movie like Get Him to the Greek seems like a no-brainer - in theory. If you look at television, there's a history of taking supporting characters from successful comedies and launching them into equally successful starring vehicles.

But it's not the same with movies. A scene-stealing supporting comedic character often works precisely because there isn't any attempt to give him or her more depth or context. The character exists to steal a few scenes with superficial laughs, and nothing more.

Yet here we have a showcase vehicle for Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), the vain, addlebrained British rock star in 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Here, Snow is licking his wounds after his most recent record flopped. But a low-level music industry functionary named Aaron (Jonah Hill) has a notion that Snow can mount a comeback through a concert at Los Angeles' legendary Greek Theater. All Aaron needs to do is squire Snow from London to a Today show appearance in New York, and then to the concert in L.A., all in 72 hours - a far-from-easy task given Snow's fondness for altering his consciousness.

Aaron's a thinly drawn character, a guy who has a big fight with his live-in girlfriend, Daphne (Mad Men's Elizabeth Moss), just before launching a weekend of probable debauchery. Hill, fortunately, is about as innately funny as any movie comedian currently working, brilliant both when he's freaking out in a Vegas hotel room on a multi-drug cocktail, or trying to maintain his dignity in a sports coat covered in his own vomit.

But writer/director Nicholas Stoller (also returning from Sarah Marshall), just like his mentor Judd Apatow, wants to make sure there's an emotionally resonant subtext to all the craziness. That's frustrating enough when it's just Aaron's possible reconciliation with Daphne sucking up screen time; it's borderline inexcusable when it's also part of an attempt to "humanize" Aldous Snow.

Brand is terrifically entertaining when he's simply wallowing in Snow's oblivious swagger. Turning his intoxicated excesses into a reaction to his breakup with a longtime girlfriend (Rose Byrne), and having him question the emptiness of his lifestyle, seems to miss the point of Snow's appeal entirely. He's supposed to be a shallow mess of a human being, not a wounded and multifaceted sad clown. Complexity can only make the character less entertaining.

Get Him to the Greek is a package of sometimes satisfying gags built on a completely faulty premise: that everything good in small quantities must be better in larger quantities.

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