Let's play freestyle word association with Russell Brand. Ready? Go! Err... Ponce. Egomaniac. Twat? Mincing. Hair. Arrogant. Self-satisfied. Ponce? Hmm, done that one... Dandy. Pompous. Cad. Wordsmith. Flouncing. Umm... Funny?
That last one really depends on your tolerance for the other ones. Personally, despite his 21st century Jack Sparrow act, I find him to be quite amusing at times. (The best bit of his recent stand-up tour saw his mock outrage at the fact that everyone slagged him off for his Andrew Sachs phone message but no one picked up on the fact that he made it up off the top of his head
.) Any tabloid figure who has won the title of 'Shagger Of The Year' will have a hard time winning over cinema audiences, but one thing Brand does not lack is charisma - he's basically a haircut with a personality.
He was great in a small cameo in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
as sex-mad rock star Aldous Snow, and he's returning as the main event in Get Him To The Greek; a bizarre spin-off that reunites Snow with the former film's Jonah Hill, even though he's playing a completely different character, record executive Aaron Green. It's business as usual for Brand though, as his petulant singer must be corralled into flying to LA for a reunion gig, despite being in the grip of a narcotic haze and a pattern of self-destruction.
Straight from the opening meltdown montage, it's clear that director Nicholas Stoller has made the wise decision to let Brand off the leash; Snow's dialogue sounds so natural coming from Brand's lips, it's obvious that Russell himself had a hand in it. Indeed, several of Snow's scenes threaten to fly off into mad tangents that you suspect aren't on the page. This is both Get Him To The Greek's biggest asset and its largest flaw - it often feels like an excess of footage has been shot and simply pieced together in the edit suite afterwards.
Instead of making a straight-up road movie (get sozzled rock star from A to B via sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll), Get Him To The Greek frequently makes ill-advised pit-stops in service stations marked 'unnecessary family drama' and 'attempts to humanise characters'. Why? Brand is practically a cartoon already - who really wants to see him attempt to win back ex-girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne), re-connect with his father (Colm Meaney) or bond with his young son? Worse, none of these sub-plots are even resolved. Forgive the cliché, but would it have been too much to see a pissed-up rock star toss a few TVs out of his hotel room en route?
The blame shouldn't lie with Brand, who - surprise surprise - is incredibly confident in his first lead role, even handling the schmaltzy scenes with aplomb. Hill makes for a fine comic foil, and it's the scenes in which he's coerced into indulging in various vices (screwing in a club toilet, smoking the world's most fucked-up joint, drinking absinthe from the 1900s) that allow Get Him To The Greek to really hit its stride. Most valuable player, however, is Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy, who hits it out of the park as record executive Sergio, showing off some pretty surprising comic chops.
Get Him To The Greek impresses in fits and spurts, but never quite convinces as a narrative experience - the ticking clock, counting down the hours until the titular gig, does attempt to add some forward momentum, but you'll be more interested in Snow's scenes of debauchery than you will his on-stage comeback. The jury's still out on Brand as a leading man, at least on this evidence, but chances are you won't find a vehicle better suited to his comic sensibilities than this one.