With Sacha Baron Cohen, audiences know what to expect, and they get that and more in the often hilarious if not Borat-level The Brothers Grimsby, which loses the reality gags of the British comic star’s earlier films and follows a more convention plot line — if that is possible. Still, for fans of this guy’s high jinks, rest assured: The Brothers Grimsby is every bit as politically incorrect and raunchy as anything he’s done. Let me say up front: It is probably not to everyone’s taste, but again you know what you are getting with Baron Cohen.
As I say in my video review above, the already well-publicized bit in the film about Donald Trump contracting HIV AIDS is certainly a highlight for its sheer audacity — although it won’t win the filmmakers any awards from GLAAD. It is the kind of bit you laugh at and then feel bad in the morning, but the joke lands more now than it might have four months ago when Trump wasn’t a real threat to get the Republican nomination.
But in fact, the Trump bit is superseded by two others that had the premiere crowd I saw the film with roaring so loudly you could not make out the dialogue. One involves a mating ritual of a couple of elephants with our heroes Nobby Butcher (Baron Cohen) and his younger MI6 agent brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) caught in the middle — literally. The other involves Strong’s scrotum. You can probably tell this film does not exactly ride the high road of wit and refined humor, but, unlike Ben Stiller in the recent Zoolander 2, at least Baron Cohen knows how to make raunchy gross-out jokes work in the extreme nature they are intended.
The plot — such as it is in the script by Baron Cohen and Phil Johnston and Peter Baynham — involves local Grimsby resident Butcher living quietly in this dump of an English town with wife Lindsey (Rebel Wilson, the object of fat jokes) but keeping a room intact for his long-lost brother of 28 years after they were separated when their parents died. Turns out after being adopted, Sebastian grew up nicely and became a James Bond-like British agent. Somehow the pair are reunited at a charity event for the World Health Organization, where Nobby screws up his bro’s assassination attempt on a hit man and instead causes the death of the head of the WHO while also nearly killing the poster child for AIDS in Somalia. The latter’s blood travels into the mouth of celebrity Daniel Radcliffe — whose likeness is inserted into the scene — causing him to contract AIDS.
(Incidentally, there is a postscript saying neither Radcliffe nor Trump were directly involved in the film. It also states the former does not have HIV AIDS, and before saying the same about Trump, Baron Cohen manages one last pointed gag.)
Meanwhile, with Sebastian compromised, he is forced to team with Nobby to thwart a terrorist attack on the World Cup final. There is lots of action along the way and plenty of gags over the brisk 83-minute running time. Actors like Isla Fisher, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane and others shuttle in and out of the plot. Oscar-nominated stars Gabourey Sidibe and Barkhad Abdi are thrown into stereotyped roles that while marginally funny will never bring them back to the Dolby Theatre. Like Wilson, Sidibe is the object of more fat jokes, and Abdi deals drugs.
Still, for all the silliness on hand, I have to admit I had a much better time than expected at this one, Baron Cohen’s best since Borat. He’s a skilled comedian who knows exactly what his brand is, and how to deliver it. Director Louis Leterrier handles the action well and the film was produced by Baron Cohen, Nira Park, Baynham, Ant Hynes and Todd Schulman. Columbia Pictures, which probably will regard this all as calm compared to the storm they went through with Seth Rogen’s The Interview, releases the film Friday in the U.S. It has already opened in Britain.
Do you plan to see The Brothers Grimsby? Let us know what you think.