It’s Funny Because It’s Serious…

Film critic Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle recently said that we are in a Golden Age of comedy.  It’s hard to ignore, given the release of films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You, Man, The Hangover, and now Get Him to the Greek, to name a few.  While the latter, which released last Friday, is laugh-out-loud funny, it also has a genuinely serious streak.

In Get Him to the Greek, British scandalous sensation Russell Brand reprises his role as Aldous Snow, a selfish, hedonistic, rock star philosopher demi-god…or something like that.  After a series of public blunders, a tabloid relationship, and the release of a politically, racially offensive album called African Child in which, among other things, he considers himself a white African space Christ, his career is on the skids…to put it lightly.  Luckily, he has one fan in his corner, Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), a cog in the music industry wheel who convinces his boss, Sergio (Sean Combs) to stage a 10-year anniversary concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.  Aaron has 72 hours to get Aldous from London to the Greek.  Rather than simply settling for jokes and gags from city to city (although the film has these in spades), writer/director Nicholas Stoller mines this simple plot device for all its worth, focusing on notions of identity, fame, success and relationships along the way.

The strength of Greek, far and away, is Brand himself.  If you know anything about the star, you’re bound to wonder how much of his performance is acting and how much is just self-(re)expression.  Though he occasionally sounds full of rubbish in real-life interviews, he also conveys deep insight into his battles with sex and drug addiction and what needs those addictions often fill(ed).  Greek, via its Aldous/Brand star, cuts to the polluted heart of fame and popularity and exposes it for what it is, a drug every bit as devastating as heroin, unless of course that fame can be harnessed to some greater good.  At the same time, however, the film also takes thinly-veiled shots at celebrities who exploit(?) situations like children in Africa in the name of this greater good.

Jonah Hill gives perhaps his most mature performance to date, toning down the comedic outbursts that made him such a hit in films like Superbad.  Aaron has trouble at home with his girlfriend, Daphne (Elisabeth Moss) who suddenly wants to move to Seattle for her work without fully discussing it with Aaron.  This leads Aaron to believe that they are on a break, which, in turn, allows him to partake of Aldous’ excesses that make for most of the film’s funniest moments.

That we are in a Golden Age of comedy is certainly due to the fact that Greek, and its predecessors, are so effective because they strive for more than a laugh.  They’re out to say something, though not in any preachy way.  I Love You, Man is a commentary on male friendship.  Funny People examines humor in the face of tragedy and near tragedy’s effect on relationships.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall offers an insightful look into the world of Gothic puppet romance…or…well…you get the idea.  Though there are indeed laughable moments in Greek, they are tempered with more serious moments and discussions as well.  This might be a drag for those who like their comedy straight, but for those who prefer a chaser…something to reflect on after the film ends…Greek offers a double dose.

Get Him to the Greek (109 mins) is rated R for strong sexual content and drug use throughout and pervasive language.