Friday, 9 July 2010

Get Him to the Greek; it's amazing what Russell Brand can get away with

It's not often that I can hear someone in a cinema laughing almost loud enough to drown the soundtrack out, and generally when it does happen I'm the weird kid who's not joining in the fun, but Get Him to the Greek is one of those odd things which oughtn't to be as funny as it is.

The reason it works is Russell Brand. I'd like to say something faux-wise about how Brand isn't really acting when he does a rock and roll star with a drug and sex problem and a penchant for selfishness and manipulation, but even if that were something I particularly agreed with or thought was important, it's not why the film is watchable. Yes, the moments when Brand is being kind of creepy are solid and believable, but they're not very funny. What's funny is Brand doing all the over the top things which you'd expect him to. The opening ten minutes of the film are a montage of bits of videos and talk show appearances for his character showing how he implodes after coming out with an asinine album called African Child (described at one point as the worst thing white people have done to Africa since apartheid). It's absolutely hilarious, because Brand does a note-perfect parody of every self-regarding music industry idiot you've seen thinking that the problems of the world can be solved if everyone listens to them. It's funny because it's exaggerated, but it's hilarious because it's not THAT exaggerated.

As is so often the case with someone naturally funny, it's hard afterwards to think what made you laugh so much; Brand is just one of those people with a gift for the ridiculous. Things aren't quite so great when he's off screen for any reason. Jonah Hill is a very believable ordinary guy in over his head, but he's up against a hurricane of charisma and it's hard to care very much what happens to him. And Hill is too ordinary, in one way. His girlfriend is played by Elisabeth Moss, who's kind of funny looking but still completely out of Jonah Hill's league. They have a couple of scenes together which are put together badly enough that I had the time to think about how it's fine in Hollywood now to have a really overweight male lead with a girlfriend less than half his weight, but almost impossible to imagine a situation where you're going to have a hefty female lead paired off with a slim and toned boyfriend. When, during a stupid comedy about rockstar excess, I have the time to think about that kind of thing, the movie is not hitting its marks properly.

Prize for weirdest piece of cognitive dissonance comes from Russell Brand's girlfriend for the movie, who's played by Rose Byrne. I've watched three seasons of Damages during which Rose Byrne has been playing a character for whom the word "darn" would cause her to put money in the swearbox, and it was jarring to watch her play a British chav pop star who at one point gets her own little rock video about how much she likes anal sex. It's got the worst euphemisms since Chuck Berry's My Dingaling (so bad I've made a point of forgetting them) and just in case you've missed the point of where Jackie Q likes it the most, the song finishes off with Rose Byrne pulling the camera in close and saying "It's my arsehole." I was in a mild state of shock.

And somehow, despite all this vulgarity, it works. All credit goes to Russell. He's a peculiar genius.

And in a nice shout out to the film which created the character of Aldous Snow, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, there's a cameo for that movie's star Kristen Bell, who we see in a trailer for a ridiculous hospital show in which she's the world's greatest blind doctor. They should start making all these fake shows Sarah Marshall's in. They'd be better than all the movies that Bell keeps making instead.

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