By Dwight Brown NNPA Film Critic
“The artist is the worst person on earth. Turn your back on him at your own peril.”
Rock stars have a bad rep. Temperamental. Self-absorbed. Reckless. Sex-crazed. Addicted to anything that isn’t tied down. So what was junior record executive Aaron Hall (Jonah Hill, “Superbad”) thinking when he agreed to his boss Sergio’s (Sean Combs) demand that he personally go to England to retrieve the wacko, washed up rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) for a make-it-or-break-it concert at L.A.’s famed Greek Theater. He’s got 72 hours to deliver the rocker, or else.
Nice premise for a satire that lampoons the music world and all its excesses. Writer/director Nicholas Stoller’s populous wry humor was evident in his romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which also starred the put-upon Hill and the flamboyant Brand. This trio of comic talent, without the element of surprise, works the formulaic script as best they can to varied success. There are plenty of wacky moments (Aaron hides a balloon of Aldous’s heroin up his bum as they walk through airport security), one-liners (Sergio explaining why he needs money for his kids, “Do you know how many Air Jordan’s six black kids wear?”) and odd characters (Aldous’s girlfriend left him because he went sober). Even with all the humorous bits, manic antics and tasty improvisation this patchy comedy feels stretched beyond capacity as it nears the two-hour mark.
Hill’s shtick is starting to wear a bit thin. Once he takes the screen you pretty much know that he will be abused, lose the girl and get the girl back. Brand, though predictably wigged out, has an eccentric, impish, mischievous persona that is ultimately disarming. Sean Combs playing a record mogul is about as obvious as Eminem playing a rapper. Still, he is absolutely in the moment and enjoying his role as a belligerent music exec. Cameos by Pharrell, Mario Lopez and Pink add a little Flava.
Robert Yeoman’s crisp and colorful cinematography vividly captures the backdrops of London, Vegas and L.A. Leesa Evans rock star costumes would make Mick Jagger blush. Mike Sale’s editing is not sharp enough, and combined with a script that doesn’t know when to end, it’s a deadly combination.
The films starts with a music video featuring Aldous singing and prancing in what looks like an African village, as he lip synchs to his latest song “African Child.” This moment of biting satire may be offensive to some. Considering the context and Brand’s playfulness the scene sets up the rocker as an airhead has-been grasping at straws and a cause, and nothing more.
There’s a tight, farcical, potentially hilarious movie hiding inside this uneven, protracted but begrudgingly humorous film.