Tweetable Takeaway: The Brothers Grimsby has Cohen’s signature irreverent humor, but is mostly forgettable. Tweet
What if James Bond had a dopey brother who screwed up all his missions? Sounds at least halfway intriguing, right? THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY takes up this idea, and ends up having two or three funny scenes surrounded by a lot of wasted potential. Which is unfortunate, because the premise is ripe for all sorts of hilarity, the players involved are top-notch (Sacha Baron Cohen, Rebel Wilson, and Mark Strong in full self-deprecating mode), yet the film never really maximizes its full comedic potential. The Brothers Grimsby is a series of sequences strung together with a forgettable plot. The jokes run the gamut from obvious to halfway amusing, and at least one outright hilarious scene involving elephants. However, those more inclined to Cohen’s irreverent humor will determine how enjoyable each sequence is.
The gags start right off the bat. Nobby (Cohen) and his girlfriend Dawn (an underused Rebel Wilson) are buying a new mattress, and Nobby carries it the entire way home through lower-class England. Upon returning home, we learn his character’s greatest goal, which is to reunite with his long-lost brother, Sebastian (Mark Strong). Despite having 11 children (and a few grandchildren to boot) in near poverty, Nobby has made sure that an entire bedroom remains off-limits to his family for Sebastian’s return, now going on 28 years. The introduction of Nobby’s entire family and their low-class status begins a running gag through the entire movie that borders on mean-spirited. Along with Nobby’s family, his entire town’s low class status exists to be the butt of jokes, and though some scenes seem to empower the citizens of Grimsby, the film still makes sure to give one more insult or joke at their expense. Typically, the punchline ends up involving their lack of mental capacity.
Nobby locates Sebastian at a World Health Organization meeting, and ends up messing up the secret agent mission Sebastian is on. Sebastian becomes a fugitive, and by association, Nobby as well. There’s the barest of links between scenes, the plot exists mainly to get the brothers from England to South Africa to Chile for whatever new sequence needs to occur. For South Africa, that means elephants and their bodily functions. Chile exists for a football match. It has the feel of a movie that wants to be a globe-hopping adventure, but often just feels lazy. As do many of the jokes that occur in each new location. Too many are of the easy, low-hanging fruit variety. Anal cavities, bodily functions, homophobic characters, and AIDS transmissions all make an appearance. Most are something we’ve seen before, and the only saving grace is that Cohen is willing to push each joke to its furthest possible limits. There’s something to be said when a scene isn’t abandoned until every avenue of sucking poison out of a man’s testes is explored. It’s bold, it’s bound to make moviegoers uncomfortable every minute it continues to forge on, but at the end of the day, it’s still reduced to a joke about one guy not wanting to suck the poison out of another guy because it’s located in his crotch, and that’s just not a terribly funny joke to begin with. One also has to commend Mark Strong’s willingness to play along with any joke to its fullest. Much like Jason Statham in Spy, Strong is game to make fun of his tough guy persona, which ends up being a highlight of The Brothers Grimsby.
At this point, most potential viewers should be aware of their stance on Sacha Baron Cohen. Even those fans of Cohen’s past work, however, will likely find The Brothers Grimsby to be his most lacking effort. There are laughs to be had in this film, but they don’t come as often or as hard as they ought to. Laughs are important in a comedy, but even more crucial is how memorable the movie is. And that’s ultimately where Grimsby fails. I won’t soon forget the sequence involving a parade of elephants, but the rest will soon dissipate.
I give The Brothers Grimsby 2.5 elephant orifices out of 5
Score: 2.5 out of 5
Wil Loper | Contributor