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Film Review: The Brothers Grimsby
In 2016, Louis Leterrier released The Brothers Grimsby from a screenplay written by Sacha Baron Cohen and Phil Johnston. Starring Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Gabourey Sidibe, Ian McShane, Annabelle Wallis, David Harewood, Ricky Tomlinson, Johnny Vegas, Scott Adkins, and Sam Hazeldine, the film has grossed $16 million and finishing eighth at the box office during its opening weekend.
While Carl Allen “Nobby” Butcher has everything a poor man from the town of Grimsby could ever want, his life remains unfulfilled with his little brother, Sebastian, still missing after they were adopted by different families. However, Nobby finds out where his brother is and sets off to reunite, remaining unaware that Sebastian is an undercover MI6 agent. When the two reunite, Nobby causes Sebastian to be framed for a high ranking world leader’s death and now the two must evade assassins while working to stop a plot that endangers the world.
Presenting audiences with another look at what the mind of Sacha Baron Cohen can bring to the screen, The Brothers Grimsby is an odd and absurd film, especially how it throws every type of humor at the wall to see what sticks. It’s chock full of bizarre shock comedy, such as the scene were Nobby and Sebastian are hiding in an elephant’s vagina and they have to satisfy a number of elephants who have their eye on the one they’re hiding in before escaping, as well as purely funny moments put in for the sake of a genuine chuckle, like the misdirected Nobby thinking the person he needs to seduce is an overweight maid rather than a thin blonde woman. The humor present when Nobby is interacting with his pub friends is also oddly endearing, seeing as the group genuinely enjoys each other, making it so the humor coming from these scenes is quite natural.
With the amount of humor in the film and it bouncing from black comedy to bizarre comedy to naturally endearing, it’s not uncommon to go from one scene that’s producing authentic laughter to another that pretty much makes the audience give a nervous chuckle, unsure of what to think of it. Some of the more strange moments also go on for a little bit longer than necessary as well. However, that’s not a pacing problem because mixing all this type of humor and letting some of it go on for longer than it should seems to be Cohen’s modus operandi, as if to try and get the audience to think about why they’re laughing at something so bizarre. Still though, with this film being a comedy, it accomplished its goal of making people laugh even when some of that laughter came about confusedly.
However, while the film accomplished its goal of making people laugh in some way or another, that only makes the film successful. It doesn’t exactly make it a good film and it seems to fall flat in every other way. The plot is very contrived, with Nobby seemingly recognizing his brother after 28 years of change and then the two of them immediately on the run for their lives simply because someone accused Sebastian of murdering the official, even though no one actually saw him do it. The main villain’s eventual plan of trying to poison the crowd at the World Cup Finals in order to spread their virus to the entire world is a decent one, especially when paired with the anti-corporate greed and pro-little guy garbage message. However, it’s carried out in a way that makes it feel secondary to all the jokes that are in the film. It tries to make a point that the little guy matters because they’re the ones that “build the hospitals” and keep the Fast and Furious franchise and that they shouldn’t have to suffer because of the greediness of major corporations who want to make a buck off of curing the world and rid the population of those who they believe to be bottom feeders and societal scum. However, the film spends way too much time on the jokes and comedy and though the film does spend some time setting up the main crux of the evil plot, it simply feels tacked on. Ultimately, the film feels like it was written around the jokes instead of the other way around and while there are times where those kinds of films can be really good, this isn’t one of those times.
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