Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A good movie this summer? Yes, finally, "Get Him to the Greek"

Actually, before I get into any of that, here's a real what the f#$% moment about another potentially great movie we Yanks will never be able to see, or at least not in any kind of movie theater.

I've been wondering for some time when we would be able to see "Cemetery Junction," the '70s period comedy written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (you know, the "The Office" guys). Well, it seems we now have an answer: Aug. 17, but only on DVD.

How in the world could a working-man's comedy from this duo, about insurance salesmen in England in the '70s, not get even a small theater release? I suppose the rather phenomenal box office failures of "The Invention of Lying" and "Ghost Town" had something to do with it (though the latter is a seriously smart and funny romantic comedy, so rent it already.)

Anyways, enough about that disaster. At least we know when we'll be able to see it in some form. Before we get to a couple of videos, here in the next few days it's about two surprisingly good movies I did manage to see last weekend, "Get Him to the Greek" and "Splice." And they're not just good in comparison to the fact that the rest of this summer has just sucked pretty hard, but standalone, actually good.

Let's start today with "Get Him to the Greek," which really comes down to one question: Can you stand Russell Brand? Jackie K. Cooper, who writes up movies for the newspaper I toil for, can't, and gave the move a three. Rather harsh, but certainly understandable. I'd give it a 7 or even 7.5 (on a scale of 10) for being a fast-paced, almost entirely raunchy and just about right summer comedy.

But it all comes down to Brand and to a somewhat lesser extent Jonah Hill, because unlike Judd Apatow's star-laden but seriously confused "Funny People," which really had no idea what it wanted to be, writer/director Nicholas Stoller (with, according to the credits, "characters created by Jason Segel) makes "Get Him to the Greek" a buddy comedy in the traditional sense, with a few celebrities making cameos (Kristen Bell makes a brief but hilarious return as Sarah Marshall) but never overwhelming or distracting from the story at its core.

And I'm sure anyone reading this by now knows already that that story is about Hill's mission, as a record company intern, to get debauched British rocker Aldous Snow (Brand) to L.A.'s Greek Theater for a show. And it indeed often comes down to the two of them pushing the limits of taste and through them again and again, which would get old a lot quicker than its one hour and 45 minutes or so if they weren't such a natural fit together.

There's a moment near the end that just captures their chemistry perfectly. After their American adventure reaches its nadir in a Las Vegas meltdown featuring Snow's father (Colm Meaney, very funny as usual) and broken up by Hill's boss (P. Diddy, not nearly as funny as hyped to be, but OK). Look for the expressions on their faces, one of sheer joy and the other of utter terror, on their faces as they're running out of the hotel, for me the movie's signature moment (and it's the top of this review.)

In the end, what makes this the best "Camp Apatow" - or whatever you want to call it - movie since "Superbad" (and almost as good as that movie, and if you've been here before you know that's high praise) is it's simple moral, or more accurately the almost complete lack of one. Through his journey (and I hope I'm not spoiling too much here, because you really should go see this), all Aldous really learns is that he really shouldn't be too much of a dick. Really nothing more redeeming than that, and that's exactly where this should have ended up.

OK, you get the idea by now that I really liked this, but I did have some quibbles, and it has almost entirely to do with how the movie treats - or more accurately abuses - women (except for Rose Byrne, who is very funny as Jackie Q, Snow's pop diva ex-girlfriend whose songs delight in the art of single entendre.) After "Freaks and Geeks," Apatow and friends made another one-season show that was in its way almost as good, "Undeclared" (if you've never heard of that, just trust me and rent it.) At its center were Jay Baruchel and Carla Gallo, who has been famous since mostly as the female foil for the crudest of "jokes" in the movies Apatow has produced since.

You may remember her from "Superbad" as the party dancer who, it being a certain time of the month, leaves her mark on Jonah Hill. OK, that was funny. In "Get Him to the Greek," however, you can certainly call her a sport, but she's also the butt of a joke that goes horribly wrong in the aforementioned Las Vegas scene. To tell you anymore would spoil it, but let's just say I don't cringe very often at rude humor, but this was just gross and not at all funny.

And poor Elisabeth Moss really just gets treated even worse. As Hill's earnest live-in girlfriend who is also a very hard-working doctor, she's not just a one-dimensional killjoy, but in the movie's most lethargic and awkward stretch, makes for its worst scene by far when she berates Hill for his rock 'n' roll exploits, and then proposes an encounter that's as ludicrous as it is poorly delivered.

Though women have had fun in Apatow-produced movies before (Emma Stone was great in "Superbad," and Charlyne Yi was a hoot in "Knocked Up"), all too often - as here - they're simply around to rain on the parade. But perhaps I'm just thinking too much about what, after all, is designed to be a thoroughly raunchy and fun summer ride, and is, exactly because boys will still be boys, and thankfully with "Get Him to the Greek," very funny ones at that.

OK, I really have to go work now, but I'll leave you with the funniest clip I could find this morning. The "punch line" doesn't come until the very end, and be warned: Before that you get Mike White and Justin Long acting like a very gay (as supposed to partially gay, I suppose) couple, so if that kind of thing offends you, please don't watch it. In a couple of minutes, however, it makes a very salient point about California's Prop 8, and does it in a way that made me, at least, laugh out loud. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Tuesday. Peace out.


Rankography said...

Nice review and thanks for the info on Cemetary Junction -- sounds very funny.

I have been looking forward to a Jonah Hill movie that lives up to Superbad and maybe this is it.

Also check out a new movie site, Rankography, we are launching for movie fanatics. As a blogger you can create a profile with a description and link back to your block.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for that .. I'll certainly check it out during my lunch hour ... And I hope I didn't set the bar too high with the "Superbad" comparison, but I really did like this one almost as much as that gem