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Originally published June 3, 2010 at 12:05 AM | Page modified June 3, 2010 at 3:33 PM

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Movie review

'Get Him to the Greek': Russell Brand takes the spotlight as a rock god on the rocks

"Get Him to the Greek" stars Russell Brand as a rock god on the rocks and Jonah Hill as a record-company junior executive tasked with getting him to a comeback concert.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'Get Him to the Greek,' with Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Sean Combs, Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne, Colm Meaney. Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller. 109 minutes. Rated R for strong sexual content and drug use throughout, and pervasive language. Several theaters.

Movie review 3 stars

After Russell Brand hijacked all his scenes as the self-absorbed, self-destructive rock star Aldous Snow in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," director Nicholas Stoller realized that both the character and the actor cried out to run riot through a movie of their own. Aldous' mind and mouth were way too big for supporting status, so in "Get Him to the Greek," Stoller gives the debauched superstar plenty of room to enliven a keen-eyed and clever mythology — which Brand brings to life with the verve of a depraved virtuoso.

The result is a screwball road movie of dirty jokes and bad manners that pairs Brand's brainy madness with the sardonic shtick of Jonah Hill. Hill has been perfecting this act in just about every movie that comedy mastermind and "Greek" producer Judd Apatow has touched since the unashamedly crude genre kick-started a boffo box-office trend.

Hill plays Aaron Green, an "affable nitwit" and junior executive who cares mostly about music at a record label that cares mostly about money. It's his idea to have British rock icon Aldous Snow stage a concert at the famed Greek Theater in Los Angeles to resuscitate a career that's flaming out in epic proportions. Aldous had been king of the rock world until an outrageously offensive concept album tanked, sending him spiraling into mass-media humiliation and a substance-abuse cyclone.

But Aaron still worships Aldous' legacy and is convinced that, with the right push back into the spotlight, there's both profit to be made and dignity to be restored. The problem is articulated by the title; it's an assignment that Aaron accepts with no consideration for the high-jinks that await him and his hero as they trek through time zones and misadventures in a 72-hour countdown.

During their expedition from London to L.A., the mismatched duo gets loads of comedic reinforcement from an ensemble cast that pits the real world against a fake universe crackling with pop-cultural mischievousness. You know great creative minds are at play when Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman plays it straight against a vomit-stained Hill on the set of the "Today" show. It's likewise clear that cleverness is afoot when Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich appears as himself in an awkward bedroom scene, and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs steals the show as a psychotic music-industry titan uproariously parodying his own outsized image.

The best bits are sketch elements in the bigger picture that inevitably has Aldous and Aaron bonding in a way neither expected. What's pleasantly surprising is the sentiment that emerges in scenes like the Las Vegas penthouse party where Aldous befriends then battles his estranged father (Colm Meany) while simultaneously talking Aaron down from a drug-induced freakout.

Much snappy dialogue keeps the far-fetched shenanigans from collapsing into stupidity, and agile performances create genuineness in the relationships. Foremost is Brand, whose wry intelligence inspires an enormously appealing presence. As Aaron tells Aldous in one of many fits of frustration, "you're smart, so you make your insanity sound good!"

Ted Fry: tedfry@hotmail.com

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