Film Review: The Brothers Grimsby

Grimsby Poster

The Brothers Grimsby Plot Summary:

After being separated as children, a beer guzzling oaf (Sacha Baron Cohen) reunites with his brother (Mark Strong), who turns out to be a secret agent.  Due to his brother’s foolish meddling, both become fugitives as they work to uncover a disastrous plot, while also trying to reconnect as family.

The Brothers Grimsby had the honor of being the only movie in history to be predicted as my Worst Film of the Year two years in a row (it got delayed).  I’ve made it crystal clear that I’m no fan of Sacha Baron Cohen.  I still have psychological pain from The Dictator.  Within ten minutes of the opening credits, I saw Sacha Baron Cohen run around like an idiot, and fall ass backwards into a firework.  I simply slumped down in my chair.  It is what it is.  You knew this was coming.  Just get through it.  I don’t know if it’s because my expectations were so low, or if I was still fresh off of Knight of Cups, but…I sort of, kind of enjoyed The Brothers Grimsby.  Just writing that sentence sends a shiver through my whole body.  By no means is this a great cinematic achievement, or even a good movie for that matter.  The biggest reason why this works to some extent is Sacha Baron Cohen may have actually taken some notes this time around.

Grimsby pic 1

I still don’t find Cohen funny at all.  In this film, he’s not even that funny.  What he does do though is create funny situations and essentially stays out of the way.  He tones down the annoying factor and let’s the comedic sequences play out.  This shows improvement.  Make no mistake – there are plenty of dick jokes in this film.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  Where this works where other Cohen endeavors fail is there isn’t a constant barrage of this stuff.  There’s more variety in the comedy, but not much.  I don’t want to make it seem like Cohen is venturing out with new material here.  It’s the same old “I’m going to shock you as much as humanly possible” gross out gags.  While they improve, there are still moments that raised my movie anger level, including a fart joke with Rebel Wilson that was hard to watch.  I’m never going to be a fan of Rebel Wilson, but I’ll say this for her – she’s fearless.  I’ll give her that.

The first half of this film isn’t great, but tolerable.  The movie actually gets better as it goes along.  A lot of the humor comes from misunderstandings.  It’s basically an R-Rated Austin Powers film.  Sometimes the jokes crash and burn, but other times they work seamlessly, including Gabourey Sidibe’s (Precious) cameo.  Very much like Borat, there are a couple times I laughed pretty damn hard.  There’s an AIDS joke I’m ashamed to admit almost got me on the floor in stitches.  Most of the time these jokes miss.  There are plenty of lulls.  There’s one joke in particular towards the end that is the most telegraphed joke in the history of comedy, but it sort of works.  Let’s just say it involves a very important and influential figure right now.

There’s one particular scene I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention.  Without spoiling anything, there’s a sequence involving an elephant.  This joke reaches a level of absurdity where I had no choice but to submit.  With every muscle in my body, I tried hard as hell not to laugh, but lost the battle.  The gag itself is ludicrous, but combined with the production design and special effects, I have no choice but to commend Sacha Baron Cohen, even though it’s the most lowbrow humor I’ve ever seen in my life.  Everyone in the theater lost their minds, and we all need long showers after laughing at it.

Grimsby pic 2

While I didn’t find Cohen hilarious, he carried the film fine.  Mark Strong is definitely a good sport, and plays the perfect straight man to Cohen’s moronic behavior.  Cohen’s character, Nobby, has a huge family, and I thought these characters were going to be annoying as hell, but they actually had some decent bits.  Isla Fisher and Penelope Cruz are also in this, but don’t add anything.  Penelope Cruz has a knack for picking mediocre, forgettable projects.  She’s a good actress, but seriously, spend a little more time reading scripts.  Geez.

While the comedy is hit or miss, it’s the other elements that don’t do this film any favors.  As it’s technically an action comedy, the action is very over stylized and boring.  They also try and have some actual drama in the film with the brothers’ back story.  Uh, yeah, based on the jokes I’ve seen throughout the movie, there’s no way I could ever associate drama with this picture.  Are you kidding me with this?  The melodramatic storyline does make for a funny climax though.

This movie is wildly inconsistent and mostly forgettable, but there are moments that make it worth a watch.  It’s also short, thank God.  I’m still not joining the Sacha Baron Cohen fan club any time soon, but I’ll give him credit for this – he put in a huge effort, and that’s what comedy is all about.  It’s about taking chances, and he sure as hell takes them here.  Maybe I’ll watch this again in five months and hate it, but for now, The Brothers Grimsby is surprisingly okay.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly Better Than ‘Meh’)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.