Brand and Hill bring the noise
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures, Jonah Hill stars as Aaron Greenberg and Russell Brand stars as Aldous Snow in Universal Pictures' "Get Him to the Greek." Glen Wilson

'Get Him to the Greek'

Rated: R. Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes. 3 stars.

They've been saying that rock 'n' roll died years ago. They've been saying there are no more "bad boys" of cinema for just as long. And music business parodies are as omnipresent as Lady Gaga is on the airwaves. So, is "Get Him to the Greek" just another wannabe in a long line of madcap, filthy capers, or is it a witty take on the entertainment industry?

Allow micro-executive Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) to define it. After sloshed has-been Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) crosses the line with Aaron one too many times, he asserts that he's just a junkie who happens to say intelligent things on occasion. That's how "Greek" rolls; it's daffy and derivative, but it's got enough of that Judd Apatow magic (he produces) to really jibe with discerning audiences.

The premise is that (sarcastic spoiler alert!) the music business is tanking — and who better to predict that doom than Sean "Diddy" Combs, in the role of snarky mogul Sergio? — and the conglomerate record label Aaron works for is in dire need of the next hot thing. Still deep in fanboy love with the Neanderthal-like Aldous, Aaron recommends hosting a special 10th anniversary concert for his fabled Greek Theatre performance. An agreement is forged, and the portly enthusiast is flown to England to retrieve the fallen star.

Predictably, Aldous is petulant and reluctant to leave his plush London digs. He lives lavishly off residuals from his Brit-pop anthems (cheekily named "The Clap" and "Furry Walls," among others) and still is ridiculed for his most recent, experimental album, "African Child," which critics considered just below war and famine as the worst thing to happen to the African people. Just as subservient Aaron begs him to come to the states, the greasy-haired man-child introduces him to hard partying (all set to a classic rock diet of T. Rex and the ilk).

A bulk of the film is a rough R-rated montage of sexual gross-outs, crass language, heavy drug use, malicious violence and gratuitous potty humor. The cringe-worthiness is nothing new to Apatow productions, but in various "Greek" scenes, it borders on "American Pie" depravity. For example, Aaron keeps finding himself in embarrassing predicaments involving his bottom.

But like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," the 2008 comedy from whence the Aldous character came and in which Hill also appeared, "Greek" has a surprising amount of heart among the raunchiness. Despite his boorishness, Aldous makes a great dad to his geeky son, Naples. And for being so involved in a job that encourages one to lie and butter up his clients, Aaron has a mostly tender relationship with live-in girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss). Director/writer Nicholas Stoller, who also shot "Sarah Marshall," un-ironically bridges the lewd with the loving here and what it means to be a real fan of the music — even if that means confronting a rock god with his own faults.

"Get Him to the Greek" is wacky and subversive but really encompasses that great timeless power that music can wield. And Brand might just be playing himself or tipping his hat to real-life train wreck musician Pete Doherty, but he does it so genially that you'll cry out for an encore.

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