Genre: Action and Adventure, Comedy
Director: Louis Letterier
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe, Penélope Cruz
Release Date: March 11th, 2016
Since coming to national prominence in Da Ali G Show and theatrically in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, information pills Sacha Baron Cohen has spent much of his time pushing the comedic envelope. He’s taken on smaller roles in high-profile movies like Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Les Misérables but in the movies he’s co-written (Borat, Bruno, The Dictator), his own sense of comedic crassness has taken prominence. Such is the case with his newest feature, The Brothers Grimsby.
The new film stars Sacha Baron Cohen as Nobby, a goofy football-loving British father who has always wanted to find and reconcile with his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong). Nobby is so dedicated to his brother that he doesn’t let any of the nine members of his family use Sebastian’s old room. After more than twenty years apart, Nobby wants to preserve everything for his brother’s long-awaited return.
“One day, he’s gonna join our family again,” he says.
After receiving a tip, Nobby locates his brother and goes on a mission to surprise him. It turns out that Sebastian is on a mission as well. Sebastian is one of England’s top spies. When Nobby surprises him at a huge charity event, the leader of the World Health Organization is mysteriously killed — leading the two brothers to team up to uncover the conspiracy behind the assassination.
Within minutes of the plot being unfurled, the screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston and Peter Baynham begins its sad reliance on gross-out comedy that is as tired as it is disgusting. There are endless sight sags here (the grossest one involves the brothers climbing into an elephant’s anus before an elephant sexual free-f0r-all) but they all simply reinforce the idea that Cohen seems to have run out of new material. From jokes about gay people to ones about the handicapped, the script settles for obnoxious and mean-spirited gags at nearly every turn, never really offering any truly memorable sequences.
The most controversial joke though might be the one that has gotten the most media coverage. As a twisted gag, the film shows an actor playing Donald Trump (and earlier Daniel Radcliffe) getting AIDS. That joke might’ve gotten a lot of media coverage but it only seems to be an example of the writers trying to stay relevant when much of their comedy is outdated. This is a film that wants to be cutting edge but never does anything worthy of that phrase.
The misfortune of the film seems especially galling considering the success of Spy and Kingsman: The Secret Service in 2015. Both of those films (the former a comedy, the latter an action film) took the concept of a James Bond-type spy formula and ran with them. In the former, Melissa McCarthy played a CIA analyst who was forced undercover on a mission while in the latter, Taron Egerton played a young man who trains to become a spy. Both of them followed certain traditions of the spy genre while adding to it. The Brothers Grimsby does none of that.
Oddly enough, one of the stars of Kingsman was Mark Strong, who plays Sebastian here. It’s possible he thought that he signed on to another movie that could add a original new look at the spy genre but unfortunately The Brothers Grimsby is a film that settles for old offensive jokes and will likely soon be forgotten.
Review by: John Hanlon