RATING |

IF THE RECENT failure of "Sex in the City 2" shows public fatigue with hedonistic binge movies, that might be bad news for "Get Him to the Greek."

Especially as "Greek" comes out of the Judd Apatow factory, and some pundits have argued that the "SATC" girls are "empowering" female versions of the raunchy Apatowian male "hero."

The thing that these folks keep missing about the Apatow comedies and their underlying anthropology, though, is how self-critical they are.

The men in "Virgin" and "Knocked Up" are in dire need of reform, and most of the jokes come at the expense of their lazy or selfish or rudderless existence (which they almost always abandon and denounce at movie's end). Their lifestyles are not celebrated. If a guy in an Apatow comedy paid $1,000 for a pair of shoes, he'd be ridiculed nearly to death.

As has been noted, his movies have a conservative streak, one that's visible in "Greek," featuring Jonah Hill as Aaron, an average Joe who takes a walk on the wild side when he's forced to babysit hard-partying rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand, reprising his role in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall).

"Greek," written and directed by Nicholas Stoller and produced by Apatow, has Aaron start where Apatow's characters usually finish - in a committed relationship (with Elisabeth Moss).

Their relationship is fun and cozy (sketched briskly and nicely by Moss and Hill), but when she considers a job offer in a distant city, an argument erupts and the relationship is suddenly in jeopardy.

It's the wrong time for Aaron to be in the gravitational pull of the seductive, corrupting Aldous, the Darth Vader of debauchery, determined to draw Aaron over into the dark side.

This leads to some crude and often very funny scenes involving sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, Vegas, hookers, marital aids - all the stuff that was implied in "The Hangover" is actually depicted here.

Again, though, "Get Him to the Greek" does not endorse or glorify this behavior. In fact, the movie functions as a scabrous satire of the lives of the rich, famous, stupid, self-absorbed and marginally talented, with a barely disguised contempt for what passes for pop culture these days.

There are priceless parodies of save-Africa anthems by Snow and the vapidly sexual videos of his pop tart girlfriend Jackie Q (Rose Byrne, against type). Sean Combs has an extended, often funny bit as a record biz magnate.

By the same token, "Greek" resists moralizing. There's an exceptional scene of Snow anticipating and rejecting Aaron's antidrug pitch, which is hilariously passive, uninspiring and laden with double-negatives ("maybe not using heroin wouldn't be a bad idea").

Stoller is a better writer than director - there are many standout jokes and individual scenes, but the movie is very sloppily composed and edited (tellingly, many of the bits featured in the TV ads are not in the movie).

Still, the movie has more highs than lows, and even some resonance, it's part of our ongoing cinema of binges, benders, and hangovers, one that helps make sense of our new century.