By Jack Dignan
Sacha Baron Cohen has done it again, and that is certainly not a compliment. While his movie career hit its peak with his smash hit Borat, Cohen pushing the limits of the phrase 'socially acceptable,' in my opinion, his filmography started going downhill after that. Fast. Bruno was a train wreck, failing to deliver laughs and likability, and The Dictator is just painfully average. So, naturally, I wasn't all that keen for Grimsby, especially after the advertising didn't do its job well enough to gain my interest. So, is this film an absolute disaster? Or has Cohen made another successful comedy?
Grimsby, also known as The Brothers Grimsby in some countries, follows the story of Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen), who lives in his childhood town of Grimsby with his wife (Rebel Wilson) and 11 children. In the last 20-something years, he's been in search of his long lost brother, Sebastian (Mark Strong). The two were close as children and Nobby has been looking for him ever since, but as it turns out, however, Sebastian is a spy, and after Nobby interrupts one of his missions, he's a spy on the run. Nobby must help him hide, but when a new mission calls, Sebastian's only hope is his idiotic brother.
I will admit, Grimsby isn't quite as bad as I expected it to be. The trailers for this movie have been playing in front of nearly every mature-rated movie over the last two months and every time I saw it, it just got worse and worse and worse. I wasn't at all excited in the slightest. I was dreading it, and to my surprise, it's not as bad as you might think. During the first thirty minutes, in fact, it wasn't completely awful. There were a few solid chuckles. After that, it does go downhill fast and for the rest of the film, there's only two or three other genuinely funny moments.
Sacha Baron Cohen has always been one to go beyond the boundries, doing things most people would consider to be 'wrong' or 'inappropriate.' In fact, just recently he snuck his Ali-G costume into the Oscars and performed in character, despite the Academy telling him to specifically not do such a thing. With Grimsby, the only part of the promotional material that seemed to work was the promise of one of the most controversial and hilarious scenes ever. Cohen went around to different celebrities and talk shows and showed the scene, but hasn't released it publicly. I was holding out hope that it could be a stand out for the film, and while it's definitely not going to be something I forget, that's not for good reasons.
The jokes may rarely work, but this film isn't without merit. The leads have excellent comedic chemistry, there are some slightly moving moments and I will give it credit for being as ballsy as it is. It doesn't work, but it takes risks, and that's a very good thing for the genre of comedy. Seeing the same old thing every time is getting stale, although that's not to say this film is entirely original. There are moments of originality, yes, but everything else plays out just how you'd think it would. There's no surprises in terms of plot or character development, but did I really expect there to be?
To sum up, when Grimsby works, it got some good chuckles out of me, and when it doesn't work, it got a lot of groans and sighs. There's good comedic chemistry and it takes a lot of risks, but it ultimately turns into another Sasha Baron Cohen dud.