Judd Apatow, the current king of movie comedy, took an admirable risk last summer with the bloated and terribly self-involved Funny People. The Adam Sandler film took a nose dive at the box office, a fate it deserved.
This summer, the creator of crowd-pleasers The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up rebounds mightily with Get Him to the Greek, one of the funniest, raunchiest and edgiest comedies in years.
The outrageous Greek works better than Funny People at least in part because Apatow, who tends to make films that meander too much, hands over writing and directing duties to a protege, Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Nicholas Stoller. Instead of directing, Apatow produces Greek.
Apatow didn't write Greek's Thumbelina-sized plot — about record-company employee Aaron's misadventures getting an obnoxious Brit rocker to a comeback concert in Los Angeles — but his fingerprints are all over it. That's most apparent in Greek's themes about the slavish desire to be a celebrity and the tragic consequences of achieving superstardom.
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Sound heavy for a flick that consistently makes you laugh so much you want to shout "uncle"?
Well, yes, but Stoller ably juggles the broad physical comedy and the more serious overtones. Whether it's a hysterical scene involving a furry wall in Las Vegas and a humongous drug-filled cigarette or one involving a menage à trois that evolves into something much more unsettling, the filmmaker's always in command.
At every turn, Greek mixes vulgarity and seriousness with ease and does so by trimming out any flab and grossing things up even more than what we're accustomed to in an Apatow film.
Greek undoubtedly benefits from its stellar cast, especially Russell Brand as obnoxiously narcissistic rocker Aldous Snow. Sarah Marshall fans know Aldous from an appearance in that goofy comedy that added much of its spark.
Another treat is all the rock-star and TV-personality cameos, including Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mario Lopez and Meredith Vierra.
As Aaron, Jonah Hill plays his perfect foil. He becomes almost too eager to take the bullet for Aldous, chugging booze and doing drugs so Aldous doesn't. Is that from wanting to accomplish his mission, or is it because he secretly longs to experience the rock 'n' roll lifestyle?
The real scene-stealer is P. Diddy, aka Sean Combs, as mad-dog, Red Bull-amped record producer Sergio. Combs' comic timing is impeccable and he owns every moment he's on screen, whether staring incredulously at his terrified staff or turning rabid after doing drugs.