Far from Grim
Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong
REVIEW RAY CHAN
By now, most people assume they know what to expect from a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. The truly funny scenes in many of his films are often tempered with offensive reality skits that can leave viewers cringing in their seats.
But in Grimsby – called The Brothers Grimsby, a far cleverer name, in the US – Cohen proves he can also deliver when it comes to a more straightforward comedy narrative, even if it’s laced with plenty of his trademark gross-out gags.
Cohen plays Nobby, a dim-witted English football hooligan with a heart of gold (an oxymoron in itself), in the economically-challenged seaside town of Grimsby, where he has raised 11 children, all of whom live together in the same house he shares with generously-proportioned partner Lindsey (Rebel Wilson), the most gorgeous gal in the north-east of England. One bedroom in the dwelling is permanently left vacant, kept for Nobby’s brother Sebastian (Mark Strong), who has been missing for 28 years.
It turns out that, during that time, Sebastian has become the best MI6 secret agent in history. When the brothers are reunited at a charity event for the World Health Organization, Nobby inadvertently screws up Sebastian’s mission to assassinate a hit man, forcing him to accidentally kill the chief of WHO while also wounding the poster child for AIDS in Somalia, with the latter’s blood spilling into the mouth of Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, causing him to contract AIDS.
The sheer absurdity of this scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie, with each subsequent gag exceeding its predecessor in terms of vulgarity, outlandishness and pure silliness, as the brothers go on the run to Africa in an attempt to clear Sebastian’s name.
The action sequences are spectacular and punchily staged by director Louis Letterier (The Transporter), whether it’s the brothers against their pursuers, Nobby’s kids defending their dad, or his band of football followers (Johnny Vegas and Ricky Tomlinson shine all too briefly) in a pitch invasion.
Cohen has always been the master of discomfort, with most of his movies containing at least one crowning moment of crowd-pleasing hilarity, such as the mankini and naked scenes from Borat, or the full frontals in Bruno. In Grimsby, the magnum opus lies in the game reserves of South Africa, involving a herd of elephants and an attempt at concealment by the brothers as they flee from their would-be captors.
It’s the sort of humour that Cohen’s American peers such as Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Seths McFarlane and Rogen love indulging in, except Cohen seems to do it better here. For all his intellectual shortcomings, Nobby is a family man whose love for his partner, children and sibling is clear for all to see, and this feature alone makes him a more appealing character than a self-centred Derek Zoolander or Ron Burgundy.
Far from the unrestrained political incorrectness and lewdness that characterised his previous offerings, Grimsby actually comes close to being a warm-hearted comedy, certainly something of a surprise.
Make no mistake, the laughs keep coming in this movie, irrespective of the juvenility or inappropriateness of some of the jokes. Cohen is a skilled comedian who understands what his brand is, and how to make raunchy shenanigans work in the extreme nature for which they are intended.
Grimsby leaves this reviewer in a quandary, for I found Grimsby enormously entertaining, lack of solid story notwithstanding. It’s a far different movie from the likes of a gentle offering such as The Lady In The Van, for which I awarded 3 stars. Given the fact that I enjoyed this far more than the Maggie Smith production, I have no option but to rate Grimsby 4 out of 5.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails