Following the career-killing album African Child, described by critics as the worst thing to happen to Africa since apartheid, the once-sober Snow is in the doldrums and off the wagon. Pinnacle Records, headed up by Sergio Roma (P. Diddy), is desperate for a boost in revenue and with the ten-year anniversary of Snow's landmark concert at LA's Greek Theatre approaching, intern Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) is dispatched to London to bring in Snow for a comeback gig at the Greek.
As is the Judd Apatow tradition (he produces this, Nicholas Stoller directs), Greek juggles relationship and friendship issues and how both affect each other. Aaron and his doctor girlfriend Daphne (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss) are at breaking point: she works non-stop and is considering moving to Detroit for work, presenting him with a career dilemma of his own. Snow, meanwhile, is still pining for his ex Jackie Q (Rose Byrne, hilariously channelling Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen). She's also the mother of his child Naples. "He's the only thing that makes me happy," Snow remarks. These bonds, and the one that emerges between Aldous and Aaron, form the emotional centre of the film amid the gross-out humour. Greek has bodily fluids, sex and drugs aplenty.
It's humorous and heartfelt, although admittedly all over the shop. Stoller tries to cram in every rock star cliché imaginable, meaning Brand has to navigate his character through extreme stupidity (Paraphrasing: "I made some phone calls and it turns out famine and war isn't right"), an expansive vocabulary, father issues (both with Colm Meaney's Jonathan Snow and his own son), addiction and potential suicide. The script may let Brand off the leash, but the wild swings from funny to tragic never quite work. In one scene, he snaps angrily at Aaron and begs for heroin. Brand is scarily good in that moment, his past drug problems no doubt a help, even if it feels like a scene hoisted in from a bleak addiction drama.
Nevertheless, laughs are never far in sight even when Greek goes to some dark places. It's what keeps the movie afloat, because it operates with more conviction when it's shooting for laughs and not dramatic resonance. A drug-fuelled bar brawl played out to 'Come On Eileen' is perhaps the comedic highlight, which culminates with P. Diddy storming through neverending corridors ("Kubrickian," Aldous accurately calls them) in pursuit of Hill and Brand. It's as silly and juvenile as you’d expect, but a whole lot of fun.
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