Movie Review: Grimsby (2016)
“Behind every hero is an embarrassing sibling”
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson
Synopsis: A scrounger on benefits is reunited with his long-lost brother, a skilled spy.
By venturing into an arena already visited by the likes of Harry ‘Wayne Slob’ Enfield and Steve ‘Paul Calf’ Coogan, with his portrayal of low-life scrounger Nobby Butcher in Grimsby, Sacha Baron Cohen (The Dictator, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) invites direct comparison with his peers for arguably the first time in his career. The comparison isn’t particularly flattering for Baron Cohen, it has to be said: there are laughs to be had, to be sure, but they’re stretched pretty thin amidst a barrage of unfunny gross-out gags which are little more than thinly disguised insults aimed at the very people likely to laugh hardest (or at all) at his lowbrow humour.
Nobby is a working class zero, drifting through life in perpetual search of the easiest options in the North-Eastern fishing town of Grimsby, from where, with his partner, Dawn (Rebel Wilson – Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie) who refuses to allow plentiful rolls of fat to prevent her from squeezing into clothes two sizes too small for her, he has fathered nine kids, the benefits for whom furnish him with enough beer money to prevent him having to search for a job. With his England football shirt and Liam Gallagher haircut, Nobby looks every inch the brainless British bottom-feeder, but he’s a contented soul whose only regret is that his 28-year search for the younger brother from whom he was separated as a child has yielded no results. Of course, it’s not long before fluky coincidence steps in to orchestrate a reunion between the long-lost brothers, which might delight Nobby, but creates all kind of problems for his kid brother, Sebastian (Mark Strong – The Imitation Game, Kingsman: The Secret Service), who is now an agent for MI6, and who finds himself on the run from his paymasters after Nobby causes him to accidentally shoot someone he was supposed to be protecting.
Baron Cohen was never the most subtle of comics, and with Grimsby he plumbs new depths of bad taste with such juvenile escapades as inserting lit fireworks into his backside, sucking poison from his newly discovered brother’s scrotum, and hiding inside an elephant’s vagina as she receives the attentions of a queue of randy males. Whether you find such moments hilarious or not will obviously depend on your age and intelligence. To be fair, Grimsby does have its moments, and Baron Cohen’s observational skills at least remain intact, even if he is apparently no longer capable of translating what he observes into material as finely honed as that with which he came to fame as Ali G and Borat. His comical exaltation of the boorish behaviour of British society’s lower strata is a tactic which might have found favour from both sides of the social divide had the material been consistently funny and less repellent, and remained in Nobby’s home town instead of travelling halfway across the world to South Africa, where the film’s funniest joke – that the England football team make it to a world cup final – provides an unconvincing climax.
(Reviewed 16th July 2016)