As Aldous Snow, the breakout character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Russell Brand was a glorious amalgam of rock-star stereotypes: A creature of colossal excess despite his loose attachments to Eastern philosophy and vague “causes,” a thinker as vapid and pretentious as Sting or Bono on their worst days, and a tornado that rips through hotel rooms and other people’s relationships. At the same time, he was also a manifestation of Sarah Marshall star Jason Segel’s worst nightmare, underlining the shortcomings of a man who can’t measure up to a pansexual rock deity who looks annoyingly at ease in leather pants. So the question facing the spinoff comedy Get Him To The Greek isn’t whether Brand is funny in the role—he was and he remains—but whether he can exist on his own, without a poor schlub like Segel to torment.
Writer-director Nicholas Stoller, who also directed Sarah Marshall, cleverly gets around the problem by producing another poor schlub in the form of Jonah Hill, who’s weirdly not reprising his role as a sycophantic hotel staffer in the earlier film. Here Hill plays a Los Angeles record company lackey who comes up with the idea of reviving Brand’s career, which has stalled in the wake of a single, “African Child,” that critics dubbed the worst thing to happen to the continent since apartheid. Hill’s initiative backfires when his boss (Sean “Diddy” Combs, in hilariously dictatorial Making The Band mode) tasks him with escorting Brand from his home in London to the Greek Theater in L.A. to kick off the tour.
Though some of the novelty of the Aldous Snow character is gone—the “African Child” video, for one, is a faintly amusing echo of his Dylan-esque “We’ve Got To Do Something” clip from Sarah Marshall—Brand expands on the rascally charm and soul that made him transcend type in the first film. And Hill, dialing back on the pissy vulgarity of his supporting roles in Knocked Up and Funny People, makes the perfect foil, as passive and impressionable as Brand is reckless and impulsive. Both have some growing-up to do—this being a Judd Apatow production, after all—but a few squishy reconciliation scenes don’t take away much from the ramshackle, road-movie hijinks. They’re the mild hangover from a wild night.