It’s no surprise that Hollywood is unfamiliar with the concept of too much of a good thing, but it is disappointing to see a character or actor go so quickly from pleasant surprise to unwelcome annoyance simply because filmmakers don’t know when to say when. Russell Brand was one of the highlights of the clever, deceptively complex romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in part because his character (debauched rocker Aldous Snow) showed up sparingly, said something funny when he did, and then left before wearing out his welcome.
Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller clearly learned the wrong lessons from Brand’s popularity in that movie, though, because the quasi-sequel Get Him to the Greek has Aldous Snow in nearly every scene, running his rather one-note personality into the ground remarkably quickly. Worse, it relies on the cartoonish Aldous to be much of the emotional heart of the film, whereas in Sarah Marshall he was used as a breather between more heartfelt scenes featuring the main characters.
The other attempt at heart comes courtesy of Jonah Hill, confusingly playing an entirely different character from the one he played in Sarah Marshall. He’s Aaron Green, a record-company lackey charged by his boss (Sean “Diddy” Combs, overacting like mad) with fetching the washed-up but still unpredictable Aldous from London and getting him to Los Angeles’ Greek Theater in time for his big comeback show. Aaron has boring relationship troubles with his med-student girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss), and fails to resist temptation when presented with all manner of rock-star excess.
Aaron is just as one-dimensional as Aldous, and the efforts to create a Judd Apatow-esque combination of raunch and heart completely fail, because the serious moments (including those between Aldous and his pop-star ex Jackie, played by Rose Byrne) come off as false and contrived. Moss makes no impression in her handful of scenes, and while Byrne is convincing as a vapid pop singer, she and Brand can’t make Jackie and Aldous’ relationship seem like anything more than a joke.
And jokes should be the strengths of a movie like this, but Stoller rarely goes beyond the idea that Aldous is a pompous addict and Aaron is a clueless nerd, and although the movie’s opening features some amusing pop-culture parodies (and Kristen Bell’s brief cameo as Sarah Marshall is pulled off well), the rest of the movie mostly runs in circles. With Sarah Marshall, Stoller made audiences hungry for more Aldous Snow; after Get Him to the Greek, they’ll be happy never to see the guy again.