Aside from Brand reprising his role as Aldous Snow, the only other on-screen link with Sarah Marshall, not counting a brief but fun cameo by Kristen Bell, is Jonah Hill, playing a different character this time. Gone is Matthew, the hotel employee with a weird fixation for Aldous; welcome Aaron, a California record company employee with a weird fixation for Aldous. In fact, he suggests that, in order to boost the company's success, they bring the British singer from London to L.A. for a big comeback concert. His boss Sergio (P. Diddy) agrees, on one condition: Aaron himself has less than three days to get Snow across the Atlantic. This proves to be more difficult than anticipated, as Aldous is off the wagon, pining over former flame Jackie Q (Rose Byrne) and generally prone to behavior that could wreck the whole operation. To quote Bette Davis, "It's gonna be a bumpy ride".
With no aid from Segel (who participated merely as a songwriter), returning director Nicholas Stoller is on scripting duty as well, and retains the first film's showbiz satire angle. While that got a bit out of hand last time, a tighter focus (solely the music industry) allows for greater, more genuine laughs: as in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Aldous' outrageous lyrics are a hoot, and the presence of all the genre clichés - sex, drugs, booze, family issues, slutty girlfriends, et al - feels less trite and predictable than usual. Then again, not many movies begin with the "hero" proudly proclaiming himself "the African Jesus".
On the flip-side, the rom-com material isn't equally strong, the main "arc" - Aaron's strained relationship with his girlfriend (Elizabeth Moss) - being a rather conventional and tired plot device that fails to convince throughout, climaxing in a cringe-worthy Chasing Amy spoof that wouldn't be bad if the storyline had been developed more carefully. A shame, because Moss, who proved to be the best thing in the dull Did You Hear about the Morgans?, shows once again that she has comedic skills to be reckoned with. The rest of the cast is just as reliable: the spotlight is inevitably on Brand, but the real standouts are P. Diddy's hilariously foulmouthed manager and Rose Byrne's spot-on "troubled" British singer, showing off a knack for comedy never even hinted at in her previous roles (well, 28 Weeks Later... is hardly laughing matter).
All in all, perfectly acceptable Apatow stuff: inconsistent but solid laughs, a game cast, terrific soundtrack and some neat movie references. Hardly a genre classic, but the Kubrick joke alone makes it worthwhile.