Successful “spin-off” TV shows have given a showcase to fully fleshed-out second bananas. But a cinematic scene-stealing supporting comedic character often works precisely because there isn't any attempt to provide more depth; the character exists to steal a few scenes, and nothing more. That's why taking Steve Carrell's blundering anchorman from Bruce Almighty and making him the hero of Evan Almighty resulted in an almighty stink-pile.
Yet here we have a vehicle for Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), the vain, addle-brained British Rock star from 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He's licking his wounds after his most recent record flops, but a music-industry functionary named Aaron (Jonah Hill) wants Snow to mount a comeback through a concert at Los Angeles' Greek Theater commemorating the 10th anniversary of his landmark live album.
All Aaron needs to do is squire Snow from London to the concert in 72 hours — a far-from-easy task, given Snow's fondness for altering his consciousness.
Hill does some wildly funny stuff with his thinly-drawn character, but writer/director Nicholas Stoller wants to make sure there's emotionally resonant subtext to all the craziness. Brand is entertaining when wallowing in Snow's oblivious swagger — exactly what made him funny in Sarah Marshall. Turning his intoxicated excesses into a reaction to his break-up with a longtime girlfriend or having him question the emptiness of his lifestyle misses the point.
Snow is supposed to be a shallow mess of a human being, not a wounded and multifaceted sad clown. Unfortunately, that's what happens when you take the guy who was the unapologetic comic relief and wrap a narrative around him.
This package of gags is built on a faulty premise: that everything that was good in small quantities must be better in larger quantities. Grade: C-plus
Opens June 4. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.