* * *
(Dir. Nicholas Stoller, 2010)
"It's Kubrickian!" shrieks rock-icon Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), as he and overweight fanboy-turned-manager Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) sprint through an unending corridor on heroin (and just about every illicit narcotic under the sun) in order to escape from a torched VIP suite. It is a laughing matter, and a worthy spin-off from the warm and silly Forgetting Sarah Marshall, two summers ago.
Aldous's career has taken a turn for the worst since his political release, African Child, was deemed the most detramental thing to have happened to Africa since the Apartheid. But Aaron, no longer busting tables in Hawaii, has an idea to get his hero back on the rails and in the sales. His zany boss (Sean Coombes / P Diddy) - the president of a big record company - puts faith in Aaron to fly to London and bring back a healthy Aldous to the Greek theatre, where he is set to perform a ten-year anniversary gig. Despite their differences, both Aaron and Aldous are in the dumps about being dumped: while nurse Daphne (Elisabeth Moss) wants Aaron to give up his job and support her in Seattle, popstar Jackie (the unimpeachable Rose Byrne) has left Aldous for Metallica drummer, Lars Ulrich (appearing as himself, who Aldous will tell to "fuck off and sue Napster, you little Scandanavian wanker"). The scene is set for a hedonistic yarn of unyieldingly disgusting, brilliant behaviour; monogomy and intoxication are your auspicious themes.
Regrettably this bright inflatable of a movie begins to sink with the weight of prolonged shots of Aldous in concert, and scenes of a sentimental nature, as inexperienced director Nicholas Stoller needlessly seeks to tie up loose ends. Despite Jarvis Cocker and Libertine Carl Barat's songwriting contributions on the film, Aldous Snow's back-catalogue is not worth listening to, not even for some vaguely amusing lyrics ('I want to be inside of you'). Smarter direction might have cemented this comedy as an unmissable, perhaps timeless, DVD-rent, considering the unrelenting absurdity; whether it be Jonah Hill hallucinating about Sean Coombes eating other little Sean Coombes's, or an unprecedented, risible threesome. Too early the movie concedes its fallibility. The mimicking of Aldous's London accent, and the shots of the capital's landmarks sountracked by The Clash's 'London Calling' recall the boringness of transatlanticism in American TV & Film. These are cliches that need cleansing.
More than just another feather in Brand's chic cap, this performance does justice to his versatility as a filmic resource. Where friend and compatriot-comedian Gervais has come up short in his middling American adventures (notably The Invention of Lying) the forever-bubble-blowing Morrissey-buff is unfailingly funny and wise when it comes to accepting or embarking on a role. Clearly there are autobiographical methods at work here. A sex-obsessed, recovering heroin-addict is running the show. But be suspicious of anybody who jumps to the conclusion that Brand is playing himself: where the stand-up comedian has mastered irony, this fictional rock'n'roll star is its silly, scripted object. It's another unfelt punch for those who sneer (presumably because of his sense of fashion or his accent?) at the prince of self-deprecating and arrogant magniloquence. Brand has taken a step back in order to take two dancing steps forward, and Anglo-American laughter has casting director Jeanne McCarthy and the quiet legacy of Forgetting Sarah Marshall to thank.