Editor’s Notes: The Brothers Grimsby will be released on its respective home video format on June 21st.
The Brothers Grimsby (Sony Home Entertainment) is the latest comedy starring and co-written by Sacha Baron Cohen. Cohen plays Nobby, a dimwitted, soccer-obsessed hooligan who lives in the English boondocks town of Grimsby — twin city of Chernobyl — with his wife (Rebel Wilson) and eleven mostly-neglected children. To collect extra welfare money, he shaves the head of one of his kids and passes him off as leukemia-afflicted. Nobby lives with a driving hope — to find his long-lost brother Sebastian, from whom he was separated 28 years earlier.
A chance reuniting of the brothers launches a series of manic, often tasteless gags. The reason Sebastian (Mark Strong) disappeared is that he became an MI6 secret agent. He is also the organization’s deadliest assassin and has just uncovered plans for an imminent global terrorist attack. The sibling with brains, Sebastian finds himself on the run, threatened both by enemies who want to kill him and from his own IQ-challenged brother.
Occasional flashbacks show us Nobby and Sebastian as children (Lewis Johnson, Gabriel Chay Palmer), deeply devoted to one another and traumatized by their separation. The backstory explains why the brothers’ lives have taken such diverse paths.
But The Brothers Grimsby is not about depth of characterization. It’s a thin plot on which to string a series of incredibly over-the-top, frequently jaw-dropping gross-out jokes and elaborate sight gags, most of which cannot be described in detail with even the slightest degree of decorum. Suffice it to say that little is out of bounds.
Cohen seems to revel is eliciting laughs from taboo subjects. Jokes relate to incest, an HIV-infected Daniel Radcliffe, sex with obese women, Bill Cosby, clogged toilets, sucking lethal poison from sensitive body parts, Donald Trump, and hiding from bad guys inside an elephant. If this isn’t gross enough, Cohen builds on the gags, stretching them to absurd limits you wouldn’t think possible.
Some of the best jokes, and those least dependent on squirm-inducing visuals, are those emanating from Sebastian, the straight man of the sibling duo. He’s a James Bond-style hero who finds himself in a broad comedy in which his training and ability are routinely undermined by his idiot brother.
At a mere 83 minutes, the movie is more a series of episodes than a coherent plot. Though I’m usually a fan of tightly edited comedy flicks, I feel The Brothers Grimsby could have used some expansion to allow for breathing space between gags and let us get to know Nobby and Sebastian more as people than as instruments off which to bounce jokes. But this would have slowed the pace and required some decent writing, so instead the movie is all about shocking viewers with increasingly outrageous set-ups. Are they all funny? Some are, some fall flat, and others depend on your tolerance for very dark, extreme humor.
The Brothers Grimsby, rated R, does not showcase Sacha Baron Cohen at his best. Nobby relies on situations and gags, whereas his previous characters Ali G and Borat were hysterical in their own right, providing lots of comic mileage with their appearance, manner of speaking, and overall personas. Here, Nobby is a mildly amusing goof, making it necessary to surround him with excessively distasteful gags.
Bonus extras on the Blu-ray release include a making-of featurette, outtakes, deleted and extended scenes, and blooper reel. S digital HD copy is included.