With every R-rated comedy, there will always be a small group of people that appreciates even the raunchiest of humor, which is probably double as true for the latest film from Sacha Baron Cohen, The Brothers Grimsby. Some are likely to find his new low brow attempts at humor to be hilarious; but for many others, this will just be too much.
In Grimsby, Cohen plays Nobby, a poor football hooligan from the British suburb of Grimsby, living with his girlfriend Dawn (Rebel Wilson) and their seven to nine kids. But all he can think about is his younger brother Sebastian who went missing 28 years earlier.
We soon learn that Sebastian (Mark Strong) has become one of MI5’s top secret agents and when Nobby finds out the same, he goes looking for his brother, only to compromise Sebastian’s mission forcing the two brothers to go on the run from MI5 while at the same time trying to stop a terrorist organization.
When you think about it, this is a similar conceit as last year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service—pairing a working class guy with a super spy—and the fact that Strong appeared in both movies just makes it less forgivable. In fact, there’ve been so many better spy-related comedies in the past year that movies like this and the recent Zoolander 2 seem like they’re coming too late to really have much more to say on the subject.
That aside, The Brother Grimsby is so grueling it almost seems fairer to start by talking about the one or two things that do kind of work:
For instance, Mark Strong makes for such a damn good secret agent that it’s almost a shame for him to be wasted in such an atrocious film that puts him into all sorts of embarrassing situations with Cohen. It’s a good thing that Great White Way audiences will probably skip this one altogether since it might otherwise hurt Strong’s chances at winning a well-deserved Tony for his performance on Broadway in A View from the Bridge.
Similarly, hiring director Louis Letterier was a good call, because he’s able to bring real credibility to the action scenes, including Sebastian’s introduction as he tries to kill his target.
As far as comedies go, at least Cohen makes an effort to fill this one with non-stop jokes but for every joke that’s remotely clever—and there are some good ones about Trump and Bill Cosby that seem particularly timely—there are just as many that fall flat. He continues to aim for the same low hanging fruit that’s permeated all of his previous work.
Nobby isn’t Cohen’s most inspired character and it just follows along the lines of many of his previous characters who just get laughs by how stupid and tasteless they can be. Cohen’s not stupid himself, but in the past he’s been able to use characters like this to make more biting social humor. In this case, Nobby always goes for the lowest common denominator, often taking some of the grosser jokes way beyond the point where they’re funny, almost falling into Jackass territory.
It seems pointless to go into too much details about one particularly “shocking” scene that takes an Ace Ventura gag even further, but most of the punchlines involve sticking things up the butt or making homophobic jokes whenever Nobby and his brother are forced to get close. And any chance of getting laughs is dashed by just going too far every single time.
It’s certainly understandable why some of Cohen’s British fans might get put off by The Brothers Grimsby, because he’s basically making fun of the country’s lower class football fans and calling them stupid. Unfortunately, one would probably have to have a fairly low level of intelligence to laugh at much of the humor in this movie, so yeah, good luck with that, Sacha.
What may be more surprising to some is that The Brothers Grimsby is produced by the same team that brought us Shaun of the Dead and some of Edgar Wright’s other movies, making it even more puzzling how a picture this horrendous can get made. At times, some might think Sony might be trying to use this to wash away all the bad memories we have of the terrible Adam Sandler movies they’ve released over the past decade, but this is the best they could come up with.
By the end, we get the obvious and expected message about the importance of family and brotherhood, but by then, you’re likely to have tuned completely out due to the awful and grotesque things you’ve been subjected to. It’s a shame since the more biting pop culture-related jokes Cohen really nails end up being diluted by his desire to be so disgustingly raunchy.
The Brothers Grimsby opens nationwide on Friday, March 11.