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With Jim Sabatini

The Brothers Grimsby

The Brothers Grimsby
Sacha Baron Cohen, Rebel Wilson, Mark Strong, Penelope Cruz, Scott Adkins and Sam Hazeldine

Rated: R for strong crude sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language, and some drug use.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 11, 2016 Released by: Sony Pictures

Character comedy from the U.K.'s Sacha Baron Cohen doesn't have satirical, anarchic, or even corrupted pleasures (at least) this time in a callow, cruel, if shockingly wry The Brothers Grimsby (just called Grimsby in his homeland but changed to suit a major studio marketing campaign at least Stateside that would suggest an inviting, amusing pun on those famous folklore authors or dysfunctional schemers as in the 2005 Terry Gilliam film).

After the charmingly caustic Borat hit the silver screen, Cohen hasn't fared as well internationally in more watchable forays like Bruno and The Dictator. A lowbrow, cartoonish spy spoof has an inapt, mean-spirited zeal to it that could have been more developed to be less scattershot and broad like the more genial well-rounded Melissa McCarthy vehicle Spy.

Choppy (video-game inspired) action and crudity from veteran helmer Louis Leterrier (Transporter, Clash of the Titans) is an odd farcical hodgepodge given the warped sensibilities of the screenplay penned in part by Baron Cohen. He aims at the middle-class "scum" who've supported The Fast & The Furious franchise with its share of distorted pungency.

The northern British town has the slovenly and delinquent Nobby Butcher (Cohen, in super smutty, jovial hapless form even if his 'Gallagher' look indicate otherwise) probably more into soccer/football and lager than his voracious, ample wife Lindsey (Rebel Wilson) and nearly dozen various offspring. One room in his 'abode' is left empty for long-lost younger brother Sebastian (Mark Strong of The Imitation Game and Kingsmen: The Secret Service and probably couldn't resist grappling with sort of material or his fellow countryman and zany farceur).

This tale scintillates gratuitously after fireworks and flatulence when it comes to sexual preference intolerance. Mayhem ensues after Sebastian (now a sleek, no-nonsense MI6 agent in the 007 ilk after years under foster care with a well-to-do family) reunites with Nobby under convenient circumstances (with some of the more vibrant lensing on view when the secret agent is on hand for a special assignment).

Penelope Cruz appears (looking her attractive self yet not so interested like Zoolander 2) as Rhonda, an actress and philanthropist at a London summit for the World Health Organization where a foppish Nobby causes Sebastian to miss his mark resulting in a death and wounding of a young HIV-infected Somalian.

This is where the vulgarities aren't really handled very fairly at all with the direction revealing its unleavened nature through the ribald nature of the script, especially when it comes to homophobic jesting (and an infected, but hardly infectious running gag).

It turns out a global terrorist threat looms where a crucial World Cup match may be targeted (England defeating Brazil in an earlier round which seems like a reach) and Nobby (as well as his chaps) is needed to help Sebastian. Though a ruthless minion (Scott Adkins) and a high-powered assassin (Sam Hazeldine) are in pursuit with globetrotting from Britain to South Africa and Chile. Even Ricky Tomlinson turns up as a registered sex offender.

The most egregious, if memorable gag comes at the game Strong's expense in Africa that can't be explained in much explicit detail except that two elephants put Sebastian (and imbecile Noppy) in an 'intimate' spot of bother. You know Cohen isn't bashful when it comes to letting a bit of dangling happen and he does have some palpably prurient interplay with Strong. Just in a threadbare plot with flash-backing to an earlier unhappy time there just is too much of a hit-and-miss quality that seems beneath the comic's ambition and usual talent level.

Gabourey Sidibe turns up as a chambermaid and Barkhad Abdi as a heroin dealer with Ian McShane and Isla Fisher (Cohen's wife) as Sebastian's boss and coquettish colleague. But, they aren't given much to do in what is just too lame, generic and even lazily sentimental to care much about an unabashed, flighty Nobby. At least a pervasively ugly Grimsby though seems to end sooner than expected which is quite beneficial (even for those laughing uncontrollably - at times in shock- throughout).

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Matt Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Brothers Grimsby  B      D+         D+            C- 

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