The movie opens in what seems to be an African warzone. The scene is filled with chaos and people shooting, and we're not sure we're in the right theater until... we see and hear Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), who is starring in the music video for his latest single, "African Child." The lyrics are condescending and painful, and the music video is intercut with documentary-style interviews that expose how shallow and egotistical Aldous and his model-singer girlfriend, Jackie, really are. Predictably, the record tanks, and the fallout is devastating for Aldous. He tries to go sober but Jackie goes on a drunken tirade on live television about how their life has become boring without drugs and Aldous angrily decides to start using drugs and drinking again. Skip ahead to a few years later and Aldous Snow has almost completely fallen off the map.
We are then introduced to Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), an employee of Pinnacle Records who lives with his medical intern girlfriend, Daphne. Aaron is clearly a big fan of Infant Sorrow, Aldous Snow's band, as his room is dotted with their posters and he sets his alarm to an Infant Sorrow song. Daphne works terrible hours, and she comes home just as Aaron leaves for work, but they clearly have a close and caring relationship.
Aaron goes to his office, where he is called to consult in a meeting with Sergio (P. Diddy), an intense record executive who angrily shoots down a few ideas for "gamechangers" to revitalize the music industry. Comedian Aziz Ansari has a funny cameo as one of Aaron's coworker. Sergio calls on Aaron, who, on the spot, suggests a 10-year reunion concert of Aldous Snow at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Sergio appears to dismiss the idea, and Aaron goes home a little disappointed. He asks Daphne if she wants to see the Mars Volta in concert (he plays some and dances to it, which is hysterical) but she is tired from work and just wants to watch Gossip Girl and go to sleep.
The next day, Sergio tells Aaron that Aldous has agree to do the show, but that Aaron needs to go to London, pick him up, take him to New York to do the Today Show, and then take him to the Greek within the next three days. Aaron is of course psyched, but Sergio warns him that "the artist is the slipperiest motherfucker out there" and that in order to bring Aldous in, Aaron will have to "mindfuck" him. Aaron doesn't know what to say and the scene basically consists of Sergio mindfucking Aaron by freaking him out and confusing him (very funny).
Aaron goes to meet Daphne for coffee. He's very excited to tell her about the Aldous Snow opportunity, but she's excited to tell him something as well -- she's been offered a residency position at a hospital in Seattle. Aaron doesn't want to move to Seattle (even though, as Daphne says, "Nirvana came from there!"), and they have an argument. Daphne concludes by saying, "Maybe we should take some time."
Aaron flies to London a little dejected, but hey, he's going to meet his hero! He goes to Aldous's apartment and meets his manager, who greets him warmly and says that Aldous is ready for his concert in three days. Aaron goes onto the balcony, where Aldous walks up to him and asks him who he is. Aaron says he's there to take Aldous to his concert, but Aldous thinks it's in two months and is upset that Pinnacle changed the date. He calls his manager and his mother, and even though we saw the manager say earlier that the concert was in three days, he agrees with Aldous and says that he never saw Aaron before in his life. Aldous takes Aaron out and we see that he's surrounded by a bunch of yes-men who never tell him their honest opinion.
At lunch, Aldous asks Aaron what song he should play on the Today Show, and Aaron suggests "The Clap." The friends all agree until Aldous says that he should obviously play "African Child." Aaron is a bit dejected, but doesn't really care because he needs to get Aldous on a plane to New York immediately. Aldous keeps delaying until finally, they wind up at a club at midnight. Aaron tries to pry Aldous off a girl until Aldous points out that two girls have been eyeing them all night, and that Aaron can have the night of his life with a rock star. Aaron tells Aldous that he recently got out of a long-term relationship, to which Aldous asks, "Blonde or brunette?" Because Daphne was brunette, Aldous tells Aaron to take the blonde girl. A few drinks later, Aaron is having sex in the bathroom and generally having an insane time. Daphne calls him, but they fight again.
Finally, they wind up on a plane to New York. They talk on the plane, and Aldous asks Aaron for his serious opinion on "African Child." Per Sergio's instructions, Aaron bullshits him a little, but Aldous reads through it and Aaron tells him what he really thinks. At first Aldous is receptive, but Aaron goes to far and Aldous sours on him. Once they get in to JFK and are on a limo to the Today Show, Aldous starts drinking out of a flask and rolling a joint. Sergio calls Aaron and tells him to keep Aldous sober, so Aaron asks for a swig of whiskey, empties the flask, and smokes the entire joint. They arrive, and Meredith Vieria (as herself) and her staff are clearly peeved at how late they are. Aldous blames it on Aaron, who is completely inebriated and falling all over the place. When it comes time to play the song (outside, on a crowded street), Aldous tells Aaron that he can't remember the lyrics to "African Child." Aaron has 30 seconds to get Aldous the lyrics but fails. Aldous decides to play "The Clap" instead, and gets an adoring response from the crowd.
At this point, Aaron and Aldous are clearly connecting. They go to a bar where Aaron talks a bit about his troubles with Daphne, and Aldous tells him that humans are meant to be polygamous (a bit of a "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" flashback). Aldous tells him about his father (a failed musician who walked out on his family) and Aaron tells Aldous that he should reconnect with him. They are about to go back to the hotel when Aldous suggests that they take a shot of absinthe. Flash forward a few crazy hours later, and they are passing out at Aldous's apartment in New York. Aldous decides to call his ex, Jackie, in the morning, and they have a very sweet and funny conversation. Jackie is now in a relationship with Lars Ulrich, the drummer from Metallica. Aldous and Jackie have a son named Naples, who Aldous is very fond of, and they talk a bit about him.
A few hours later, Aaron and Aldous are in line at the airport when Aldous tells Aaron to smuggle some heroin up his rectum. Aaron obviously doesn't like the idea, but he calls Sergio, who tells him to do it so he has leverage over Aldous. Aaron finally agrees, and stuffs the little red baggy into -- you get the picture.
Once they get past security, Aldous springs his new plan on Aaron -- they're flying to Vegas to meet Aldous's father. Aaron tries to use the heroin to get his way, but Aldous charms the airport worker and, despite Aaron's protests, they end up in Vegas, where Aldous goes into crazy heroin addict mode and manages to get the heroin out (funnier than it sounds). Aaron stamps it into the carpet, and Aldous flips out. A few funny scenes later, Aldous gets his fix and they meet up with Aldous's father, a drunk who plays bass for a Rat Pack cover band. The relationship between the two is clearly strained, with all the resentment you'd expect from a rock star son and the struggling musician father who abandoned him.
By this time, Sergio is fed up with Aaron's incompetence and has flown to Vegas to meet the now-trio. Sergio tells Aaron that he is turning the mindfuck way up and gives Aldous a "Jeffrey," basically a massive joint stuffed with weed, heroin, and PCP. This leads to an insane encounter where Sergio, Aldous, and Aldous's father are throwing each other into TVs, and Aaron is having a panic attack from smoking the Jeffrey. Aldous tells Aaron to rub the walls of the club, which are covered in faux-fur, to keep calm (important later), but Aaron keeps panicking from the madness that is happening all around him. Aldous finally stabs him in the heart with an adrenaline needle (a la Pulp Fiction). Sergio, who has knocked out Aldous's father, goes full-mindfuck mode and chases Aldous and Aaron through the hotel and out onto the street. They get into a limo that whisks them away to Los Angeles, and Sergio reveals that this was his plan all along.
When they finally get to LA (after a hilarious limo scene), Aaron is fed up with Aldous's antics and goes to see Daphne to beg her forgiveness. Aldous goes to see Jackie at Lars Ulrich's house, and they have an emotional scene where Aldous tells her that he misses her and wants her back. Jackie tells him that she is a different person now, and reveals that their son Naples isn't Aldous's. Aldous is crushed by this, and after a very touching scene with his son (who still calls him Dad despite Aldous telling him not to), he goes to see Aaron, the only person in LA he seems to know.
Aaron is apologizing to Daphne, who isn't having any of it. She was pocket/drunk-dialed the entire time and knows about his various indiscretions (some of which are admittedly not his fault). Aldous is totally out of his element in this setting and suggests a threesome, which Daphne spitefully agrees to. Aaron had his fun on the road, so why can't she? They have a pretty hilarious and utterly awkward sex scene that culminates with Aaron angrily kissing Aldous before Aldous *ahem* penetrates Daphne. They have an argument with Aaron accusing Aldous of being selfish and not understanding how life works. Aaron tells Aldous to get out of his apartment.
A few hours later and it's time for the concert. Aldous hasn't shown, and Aaron is watching the TV, depressed. Sergio leaves an angry message on Aaron's voicemail, but Aaron doesn't pick up. Aldous also leaves a message -- that he's going to jump off the roof of the Standard Hotel in LA. Aaron mulls it over and decides to go save him.
On the roof, Aldous is deciding whether to jump off one side of the roof, which leads to a lower rooftop pool, or to jump off the other side, which leads all the way down to the street below. Aaron runs to the pool and tells Aldous not to jump. Aldous jumps backwards into the pool, breaking his arm in the process. They have a conversation about how Aldous is sorry, and how he doesn't know how to deal with people because he has chosen to medicate himself instead. Aaron tells Aldous that he makes people happy with his music, and that there is a room full of people waiting to see his face. Aldous finally decides to be a rock star.
In the car, Aldous freaks Aaron out with his forearm bone, which is sticking gruesomely out of this skin. Aaron tells him that he needs to go to the hospital, but Aldous insists on going to the concert. Once they get there, Sergio is ecstatic and tells Aaron to give Aldous a few painkillers for his arm. Aaron says that he doesn't want to participate in all the mindfucking and the treating-artists-like-crap business and quits. Aldous gets on stage and has an awesome performance, while Aaron drives home to be with Daphne. After sleeping for 14 hours, the couple wakes up and reunites.
A few months later, Aldous is sober and playing on VH1 Storytellers. He points out Aaron in the crowd, who is dressed up in some kind of metal-studded leather jacket and sitting next to Daphne. Aaron is now Aldous's producer and owns a record label. Aldous makes a crack about how, now that Aaron lives in Seattle, he is trying to dress like Kurt Cobain, but looks like a lesbian instead. He then launches into his new hit song, Furry Walls.
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