Being an English woman abroad, I feel more fondness for Russell Brand now when I see him pictured with Katy Perry in US Magazine than I did when he lived just down the road from me, drinking in the pub round the corner from my office. As I juggle the debauched stories from his autobiography, My Booky Wook, and the scandalous tabloid headlines with his current cleaned-up, red-carpet-friendly persona, some apprehension gets mixed in with that fondness. Brand's confessional, hyper-literate, surrealistic stand-up comedy is brilliant. When he made the move to Hollywood with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the obvious fear was that he'd lose his edge and let his latent vegetarian-yoga-buddhist side take over his talent.We English were pleased to hear of Brand bringing down the Jonas Brothers at the MTV Video Music Awards with a canny reference to French philosopher Foucault, but still it was assumed American celebrity would eventually ruin him. Although Forgetting Sarah Marshall was funny, it could have easily been a fluke. The idea of a spin-off from that film in which Brand's rock star character, Aldous Snow, is chaperoned by record company intern Aaron Green, played by Jonah Hill, from London to a come-back concert in Los Angeles sounded dubious. I was prepared for Get Him To The Greek to be disappointing, maybe even a disaster. Instead, red-carpet Russell Brand is a revelation in a movie that should make him much more than just Katy Perry's boyfriend this side of the Atlantic.
From the Judd Apatow stable, Get Him To The Greek contains all of Apatow's hallmarks with male bonding, grossness, bodily fluids and sexual explicitness followed by sweetness, heart-warming reconciliation and old-fashioned values. Compared to other comedies made by a bunch of comedian friends, such as the Saturday Night Live crowd's Date Night, this is inspired filmmaking. Tina Fey and Steve Carrell tried so hard to impress us, and each other, that they came off smug. The laughs were blackmailed out of the audience one by one.
Russell Brand and Jonah Hill's three-day escapade is eventful, but laid back. It is consistently hilarious and totally involving. As with all Apatow-branded movies, the characters quickly become people you know and love. They're like you; they're on your side. So when they get into more and more bizarre situations, you stay with them, knowing it will all work out with an uplifting ending. Aldous almost kills Aaron and then almost kills himself, through three increasingly drunken, drugged-up nights and hangover-heavy days.
Sean Combs, also known as P. Diddy, playing Aaron's record company boss Sergio Roma, manages to upstage even Brand, who happily lets him straight-talk through some of the most hysterical scenes. In fact, that might be the best way to explain just how well this movie works - they make P. Diddy, a man who can call himself Puff Daddy then P. Diddy without a sideways glance, actually funny - and then they have P. Diddy make fun of Pharrell Williams. I guess American celebrity success has its benefits - ingenious cameos from your new friends.
Get Him to the Greek
Directed and written by Nicolas Stoller
Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand,
Sean Combs. Rated R