By Chaz Lipp
Fans of Sacha Baron Cohen’s brand of decidedly R-rated humor will likely be giggling throughout The Brothers Grimsby, probably even outright guffawing at times. The Rotten Tomatoes age has made it more difficult for films like this to find an audience. Baron Cohen (best known for his TV characters Ali G, Borat, and Bruno – each of which has their own movie as well) remains more a cult favorite rather than a mainstream star. No one else in Grimsby has notable marquee value. Saddled with an awkward title (Grimsby is a town in England and that name alone serves as its UK title; the U.S. title suggests a play on The Brothers Grimm, definitely not the case), the raunch-fest comedy received mostly punishing reviews. The resulting low Rotten Tomatoes aggregate percentage seems to have influenced even those who might normally pony up for a Baron Cohen comedy.
Running a brisk 83 minutes, Grimsby spews a nonstop stream of gags and a lot of them stick. The Butcher brothers, who we see intermittently as children via flashbacks, have been separated for 28 years after being separated by an adoptive couple who only wanted to take on one child. Nobby (Baron Cohen) has remained in the brothers’ hometown of Grimsby, where he’s fathered 11 children with “fit as f*ck” Dawn (Rebel Wilson). He’s never given up hope of a reunion with his younger brother Sebastian (Mark Strong), now a top MI6 agent. The admittedly thin, espionage-themed plot brings the brothers together, with Nobby “assisting” Sebastian in a fight against villainous Rhonda George (Penelope Cruz).
While it’s ostensibly an action-comedy (director Louis Leterrier of the first two Transporter films and The Incredible Hulk knows his way around the former), the emphasis is on the anything-for-a-laugh gags. No topic – from bodily functions to gay incest, even an elephant gang bang – is off limits. Bill Cosby and Donald Trump are the butt of jokes. It’s juvenile, sophomoric, and sometimes downright stupid. But I found myself cracking up at most of it. On the negative side, both Rebel Wilson and Gabourey Sidibe seem to have been cast solely for “fat jokes.” Wilson’s function is primarily to set up Nobby’s status as a ‘chubby chaser’ so he can ogle Sidibe’s motel maid Banu during a scatological-based farcical sequence that isn’t among the film’s highpoints. Women in general don’t fare well in the Grimsby’s world: not even Baron Cohen’s spouse Isla Fisher (as Sebastian’s co-agent at MI6) is treated as more than a glorified day player.
By now you may feel you’ve heard heard enough to know whether The Brothers Grimsby is your cup of tea. Although it’s pretty much flopped at the box office (at least in the U.S.) I suspect it will find a greater audience in the more-forgiving home-based market. It’s the kind of movie that inspires recommendations like, “I checked out that new Sacha Baron Cohen movie – I heard it sucked, but it’s actually pretty funny.” Not high praise, but more than appropriate for a lowbrow comedy.
The Brothers Grimsby Images: Columbia Pictures