Once in a blue moon a movie comes along that actually grosses me out. This strange phenomenon doesn’t happen too often (“Pink Flamingos,” “Jackass: The Movie“), but it does happen. “The Brothers Grimsby” belongs on this short list.
Comedy mastermind Sacha Baron Cohen is ideal as the boorish manchild Nobby, a trashy soccer hooligan who is searching for his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong), who turns out to be a skilled MI-6 secret spy. When a series of events leads to their eventual reuniting, all hell breaks loose.
This film is filled with politically-incorrect, absurd juvenile antics and doesn’t quite reach the brilliant comedic heights of “Bruno” and “Borat.” Make no mistake: it’s very, very funny, but this movie takes the disgusting jokes a step (or in some cases, several steps) too far. Get ready for rapid-fire offensive and uncomfortable jokes about incest, pedophilia, rape, bestiality, handicapped kids, starving Africans, drug addiction, oral sex, animal semen, and the classic fireworks-up-the-bum. Have you suddenly found yourself requiring additional time to process the previous sentence? Go ahead and take all the time you need.
I love irreverent humor but I do get the feeling that there are loads of offensive jokes on offer here that serve no other purpose than to shock and disturb the audience. Shocking doesn’t automatically equal funny and in some instances, I think the filmmakers forget that because many scenes rely on shock rather than actual jokes. That’s not to say there aren’t some truly inspired bits of humor here. There are plenty of easy-to-swallow wisecracks, including a gag at the expense of Donald Trump (who wouldn’t enjoy that?), and a brilliant opening bit that’s reminiscent of “Idiocracy,” but most are in extremely poor taste and are sure to offend the most delicate of viewers. There’s a revolting scene with an elephant — let’s just leave it at that — that will surely disgust even those most amenable to the grossest of the gross-out humor. I love “Jackass” but this one even pushed my limits, and I don’t get disgusted very often.
Still, the movie managed to make me laugh throughout, even when the third act begins to lag. Throw in some mildly amusing bits with the loveable Rebel Wilson and an entertaining supporting cast (Gabourey Sidibe, Isla Fisher, Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz) and it becomes quite a successful comedy.
The film earns its hard R rating with lots of strong crude sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language, and drug use; it’s not for everybody. This is comedy pushed to the most outer limits of good taste. Proceed with caution.
Comedies are notoriously hard to recommend because humor is subjective. What is funny to me may not be funny to you, and vice versa. Some people count “Zoolander” and “Wedding Crashers” among their favorite comedies of all time and I don’t find either of them particularly funny. I, on the other hand, loved “Eurotrip,” “Rat Race,” “We’re the Millers,” and the “Vacation” remake, while other people didn’t find those funny.
With that caveat as a warning to you, I really liked “The Brothers Grimsby.”
Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong play Nobby and Sebastian, two brothers who were once very close but were separated as children. Nobby is a soccer hooligan from a blue-collar town, and Sebastian is a straight-laced assassin for the British intelligence network whose life is upended when Nobby finds him in the middle of an assignment. The odd couple pairing is a classic one in the screen comedy, and it works well here to drive a story that is mostly sight gags balanced with crude and gross-out humor (yes, there is a difference between crude and gross-out humor).
While not everything works, the bits that are funny are really funny. I found myself continuing to chuckle at some of the more brilliant bits for several minutes after the scenes had already ended. The beginning of the movie, in particular, had the jokes flying at an almost rapid-fire pace where it would have been easy to miss one or more of them. The second act sags a bit — as it has to sacrifice some of the humor for advancing the plot — but the movie’s pace doesn’t slow too much.
This movie is most definitely not for everyone. As I said, there is a lot of crude humor (jokes about sex, anatomy, or bodily functions) here. Most of it works. The gross-out humor, on the other hand, is a bit hit-and-miss. There were some scenes that took it just a little too far on the disgusting meter for my taste, but comedy is about taking risks and this film takes a lot of them. I laughed a lot. To me, that’s the sign of a successful comedy.