Jonah Hides Heroin for British Rocker, Great Dane Surfs: Movies

Aldous Snow, the brazenly self- destructive rock star in “Get Him to the Greek,” gets high more often than he eats, can’t remember the lyrics to his songs and sets a room on fire after brawling with his dad.

All his bizarre behavior can’t salvage the latest raunch- fest from Judd Apatow and his acolyte, Nicholas Stoller.

The story of a young record-company gofer (Jonah Hill) assigned by his boss (Sean Combs) to escort Snow (Russell Brand) from London to Los Angeles for a comeback concert marks another misfire for Apatow, who co-produced it for writer/director Stoller.

After directing a pair of critical/commercial hits, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” Apatow has produced a series of increasingly sloppy comedies like “Drillbit Taylor” and “Pineapple Express.” As his bank account has soared, his laughter rate has plummeted.

Snow, who first appeared as a minor character in Stoller’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” takes center stage here. His British rocker is as skinny as Mick Jagger, as unkempt as Mickey Rourke and as debauched as Tiger Woods. He’s also pretentious, having just released a faux humanitarian song, “African Child,” filled with insulting lyrics.

“I have crossed the mystic desert to snap pictures of the poor. I’ve invited ‘em to brunch, let ‘em crash out on my floor,” Snow solemnly sings in a music video set in a war-torn African village, where he steps over dead bodies and canoodles with his off-and-on, pop-star girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne).

Spinal Tap

That opening scene is the funniest in the movie. Brand gives a spirited performance, but the role is so cliched that it made me think of Spinal Tap more than any real rocker. Byrne’s best moment comes when she’s sleeping with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and suddenly turns ventriloquist. Without giving the joke away, let’s just say it involves a body part instead of a dummy.

Hill has less luck with Aaron Green, the hapless record- company assistant who gets caught up in Snow’s wild lifestyle after splitting up with his medical-resident girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss). Green keeps vomiting on his jacket and stuffs a bag of heroin in his rear end to get through airport security, which gives you a good idea of the kind of humor you’re in for.

En route to L.A., the odd couple stop in New York so Green can appear on NBC’s “Today” with host Meredith Vieira. Only a cynic, of course, would point out that the film is distributed by Universal Pictures, which just happens to share the same corporate parent, General Electric Co., as NBC. (Comcast Corp. has agreed to buy a controlling stake in NBC Universal, but the deal is still awaiting government approval.)

“Get Him to the Greek,” from Universal Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2

‘Marmaduke’

Every dog has its day -- even in the movies.

Golden retrievers, German shepherds, Chihuahuas, Dalmatians, St. Bernards, collies and beagles have all starred on the big screen. Great Danes grab the spotlight in “Marmaduke,” a dog-eared comedy about a giant pooch forced to adjust to new surroundings after his owners move from Kansas to Southern California.

Based on a syndicated comic strip, the family friendly film features Owen Wilson as the voice of Marmaduke and George Lopez speaking on behalf of the Great Dane’s best friend, Carlos the cat. But Marmaduke is the real star, whether he’s surfing a huge wave or wearing shades as he pops his head through a car’s sunroof.

Special Sunglasses

Marmaduke and the various canines he meets at the local dog park are real, not animated. The Great Dane is actually played by two dogs, 150-pound Spirit and his half-brother George, both of whom take to the camera like it was a raw bone. To get the animals to make eye contact with the off-screen actors, the filmmakers had the humans wear sunglasses attached to a dog treat.

That’s more clever than the movie itself, which flags whenever the focus shifts from dogs to people, especially the eccentric owner of an organic pet-food company (William H. Macy). I’d rather watch a surfing Great Dane any day.

“Marmaduke,” from 20th Century Fox, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

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