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MOVIE REVIEW: Rock 'n' roll lifestyle takes center stage in Apatow's 'Greek'

Photo by Photo Credit: Glen Wilson

Photo by Photo Credit: Glen Wilson

Get Him to the Greek (R)

2 1/2 out of 4 stars

After the critical and box office success of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," everyone expected producer Judd Apatow and director Nicholas Stoller to make a sequel. They did just that, but rather than simply traipsing out the entire original cast and recycling the romantic comedy plot, the filmmakers brought back just two of the performers and made a sex- and drug-fueled rock 'n' roll road flick.

With the possible exception of screenwriter Jason Segel's leading man character, the best thing about "FSM" was stand-up comedian Russell Brand's portrayal of the wigged-out singer Aldous Snow. A vacant, substance-abusing pretty-boy, Snow fit snuggly into the ripe-for-abuse stereotype of British rock stars explored in the classic "This is Spinal Tap."

Stoller's movie opens with faux newsreel footage of Snow during the making of a crass and purposefully distasteful music video where he equates himself to a messiah rescuing a downtrodden African child. It is offensive in every way imaginable, hysterically funny and, as we discover in hindsight, the highlight of the entire movie. It also provides a showcase for the woefully underrated and underused Australian actress Rose Byrne as Snow's equally vapid lover Jackie Q. Jackie shows up later and, if given more screen time, would have stolen the movie in a similar manner Brand did in "FSM."

Also given a chance to steal the spotlight and doing so at every turn is Sean (choose your favorite pseudonym) Combs as task-master record executive Sergio. Bellicose, belligerent and only hinting at his position as a real-life hip-hop Svengali, Combs plays Sergio with a pinpoint level of comedic acumen and timing not seen from a musician/part-time actor since John Lennon in "A Hard Day's Night."

Desperate for revenue during the well-written subplot recognizing the frail economy, Sergio calls on his staff to wow him with an original idea, and that's exactly what tentative intern Aaron (Jonah Hill) does.

A dyed-in-the-wool Snow fan, Aaron suggests that the recently off-the-wagon singer cross the pond and do a career-reviving show at the Greek theater in L.A. Initially apprehensive, Sergio eventually warms up to the idea and charges Aaron with the unenviable chore of getting Snow to the event. With a perfect setup now behind him, Stoller slips, stumbles and falls prey to virtually every stoner cliche in the filmmaker's handbook.

Once Aaron lands in London he and Snow do the requisite blow out, party-hardy schtick and follow the tired, tough-love, male-bonding routine. Sometimes it works but more often it doesn't, and it all reaches ebb tide with a cringe-inducing scene that involves Snow, Aaron and Aaron's girlfriend Daphne (Elizabeth Moss, "Mad Men"). It completely wipes out everything that has preceded it and the awkwardness it presents cannot be overstated. Not surprisingly, the movie never recovers.

This is one of those rare films where every character is well-cast, impeccably acted and the premise is ideal, but it is all sabotaged by a single, flat-out, buzz-killing (no pun intended) scene. It's yet another chink in the once-impenetrable Apatow armor and offers further proof that the producer needs to slow down and start valuing quality over quantity. (Universal)