“A film made for prepubescent boys”
If anyone has had a hard time adapting their schtick to the modern times, it’s Sacha Baron Cohen. The fearless comedian who brought his wickedly funny, but culturally relevant, stereotypes of white rappers, foreigners, and flamboyant homosexuals to life in hilarious passion projects has found it difficult to adapt in the age of YouTube/cellphones, where similar acts of pranking the public are aplenty online. While the formula has still proven successful (IE: “Bad Grandpa”), Cohen’s more elaborate methods are of a bygone era, it seems, which is why all of his characters are “retired,” so he claims. Since 2012, with the release of “The Dictator,” his first formally structure film, Cohen has been trying to adapt his schtick to more scripted ventures (or “real” films, some will say), with plots, characters, and actual conflicts.
While “The Brothers Grimsby” may still have the energy of Cohen’s past films, it unfortunately lacks the heart, wit, and cultural significance of his earlier projects. Cohen settles for some of the lamest cheapshots I’ve seen from him in recent memory, almost stooping to a bargain barrel, Adam Sandler-level in order to get laughs, in one of the most desperate comedic efforts I’ve seen this year (and just to refresh faithful readers and inform new ones, I’ve already sat through “Ride Along 2,” “Dirty Grandpa,” “Fifty Shades of Black,” and “Zoolander No. 2” this year).
The film revolves around Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen), an English man from the town of Grimsby, who, despite contentment with his girlfriend (Rebel Wilson) and their eleven children, has always had an empty hole in his life – his younger brother Sebastian (Mark Strong). After being put up for adoption and subsequently adopted by different families, the two went without seeing one another for nearly thirty years, until they are reconnected when Nobby succeeds in tracking his brother down. He discovers that Sebastian is an MI6 agent, currently investigating a conspiracy theory involving the England government. The two wind up going undercover when the agency turns against Sebastian so order can be restored.
Anyone going to see “The Brothers Grimsby” for the plot is cruelly unknowing of what they should expect from a Cohen film, and while you can certainly imagine what to expect, trust me when I say there are some things in this film you wouldn’t dream. There are enough gross-out sight gags and visual anomalies to make the Farrelly brothers cackle, which is all well and good for those who want a completely empty moviegoing experience. However, even at seventy-four minutes (which is plenty long for this film) and featuring one of the biggest jokesters in the business today, even the most lax and easy-going audience member should demand a bit more from Cohen and his crew.
“The Brothers Grimsby” is a lazily written film, so keen on being entirely predicated off of disgusting, gross-out humor that you are practically demanded to laugh at just because you can’t believe what is happening, that it gives the impression that Cohen and his team simply wanted to make a film and they didn’t care in the slightest what it would be about. Even worse, Cohen subjects actors who have had a hard time getting roles, let alone serious roles, that showcase their true talents by type-casting them and further alienating them in the worst way possible.
Consider Rebel Wilson, who is the butt of more fat jokes yet again, setting her back several more films before she can even prove her worth, in addition to Gabourey Sidibe, who hasn’t done much of anything since “Precious,” subjecting her to such a shameful and unfunny role that it’s almost unconscionable. Cohen doesn’t even seem to respect Barkhad Abdi, who you might remember as the leading Somalian pirate in “Captain Phillips” a few years back, who plays a drug dealer in two scenes in the film, as well. Abdi, who has had presumably had a rough time finding quality work in Hollywood since his Oscar-nominated performance as is, is done no favors with this film, and neither are the aforementioned actresses, who continue to get the cheapest roles in the films they play.
But at the end of the day, “The Brothers Grimsby” is nothing more than a film made for prepubescent boys, obsessed with the four-letter words and vividly worded events they spew to their friends in school and through headsets on their online video games. Cohen has a lot to be proud of as a comedian, mainly because of how brave and unequivocally fearless he so often is in his films, but in this particular picture, he does nothing but conform to the level of the lesser comedians around him, so much so that the stone-faced Mark Strong even manages to outdo him more often than not. That alone should be a statement of the lack of quality in this film.