Sunday, March 13, 2016

Review: The Brothers Grimsby

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.
Not particularly funny and featuring gags so gross they'd make John Waters blush, "The Brothers Grimsby" is further proof that the very talented Sacha Baron Cohen is much better when unscripted and given free reign to improvise, rather than stick to a script. And, in this case, it's a script that's not very good.

In the picture, Cohen is Nobby, a rowdy but affable British soccer hooligan who has never gotten over losing touch with his brother after they were separated during childhood. And there's a reason for that: Sebastian (Mark Strong) is a James Bond-type super spy who can take out an entire group of men without breaking much of a sweat.

As the film opens, Sebastian is attempting to track down a super villain who has plans to spread a deadly disease around the world. Through circumstances extremely difficult to believe, Nobby - who has nine kids and is married to the randy Rebel Wilson - gets word that his brother will be attending a ceremony involving world health organizations and accidentally prevents Sebastian from stopping an assassination attempt. Naturally, Sebastian is blamed for the incident and the two brothers go on the lam, all the while concocting plans to halt the villains responsible for the mess they're in.

As I've said, a few mild chuckles aside, "The Brothers Grimsby" is not particularly funny, but there's no depth to which it won't sink in its attempts to provoke gasps. There's more than one joke involving a child with AIDS who, at one point, gets shot and later is dropped from a height in his wheelchair.
More than one woman gets physically assaulted and there's at least one gag I recall involving pedophilia. A joke involving Bill Cosby falls flat, while a later one that takes aim at Donald Trump gets, well, a mild smile.

When the picture is not trying - and failing - to find humor in tragedy, it indulges in long, drawn-out gags involving bodily humor. Some films - such as "There's Something About Mary" - have struck comic gold with such material but, alas, this one does not. If you're not put off by the punishingly long and fairly graphic scene in which Cohen must suck venom from Strong's scrotum, then you'll likely have had enough by the time the two of them hide out in an elephant's womb, which is shortly thereafter penetrated by a male of the species.

Cohen is a very funny guy, which is evidenced in his extensive work on British television and the hilarious and culturally astute "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." But when saddled with scripts that don't allow him to improvise and run wild with unsuspecting victims - such as this film and "The Dictator," another misfire - it doesn't work as well.

The film has a who's who of great talent - aside from Cohen and Strong, there's also Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Isla Fischer, Gabourey Sibide and the great Ian McShane - so the entire enterprise wreaks of being a missed opportunity. And it's also one you'll most likely want to miss.

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