Sacha Baron Cohen has become one of the most recognisable comedians in the world (hence why he can’t do his old Ali G/Borat/Bruno trick anymore). I missed his last film, The Dictator, back in 2012, but I’ve heard mixed responses. How does his new film, Grimsby, line up with his earlier work?
Grimsby stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher and Penelope Cruz and is directed by Louis Leterrier. The film follows Nobby (Baron Cohen) who finds his long lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) who is now a secret agent.
Baron Cohen’s earlier work went for the shock value. While a lot of it was funny from time to time, most of the humour comes from the sheer ridiculousness of the scene. I remember several scenes from Borat and Bruno that could fit that mould. Grimsby does the same, it goes all out with the gags and it will either make you howl with laughter or want to throw up.
The story spans across the whole globe, as Nobby and his brother Sebastian go from London to Grimsby, to South Africa to Chile. The best jokes are in the first half, when the brothers are in Grimsby. I wanted the film to stay there, but as soon as the film moves to the other countries, it loses a lot of the jokes. The majority of the laughs just come from vulgar language, which I can get onboard with. I don’t need every comedy film to be Cambridge Footlights, bad language can and is funny. If you’re just looking for an hour and a half of some guys saying rude words then you’ll be happy with Nobby.
However, Baron Cohen’s shock value does jump into the film every so often, and it’s here where the film really took a dramatic turn. A scene involving poison (which was featured heavily in the trailer) starts off as a simple joke but the film then goes mad and makes it incredibly cringe-worthy. I thought it couldn’t get any worse but there is a scene around the half way mark that honestly made me feel queasy. I’m not going to divulge it here, just know that it goes on for way too long and that I had to look away from it. There are some off jokes as well, including jokes about child molestation, rape and several homophobic jokes. It’s not clever or witty, and sours the tone of the film.
My biggest question is why are there so many big name actors in this film? There are actors like Johnny Vegas and Ricky Tomlinson who I can understand being in a film like this, but why is Mark Strong here? He looks like a man who is just here for the money and is kind of embarrassed by his film choices. Penelope Cruz seems to be on a roll for “comedic” films after her stint in Zoolander 2, and here she is hardly acting, just reading the script in a bored voice. And I don’t know why Rebel Wilson was here as well but she is hardly in the film, amounting to around five minutes at most.
The film is only 83 minutes long, which is really a godsend. The story is paper-thin and bad words only go so far before becoming repetitive, but the film flies along at a record pace, hoping that you’ll be laughing enough that you won’t mind.
In the end, I must admit, I did laugh a few times in Grimsby. It wasn’t the best script or jokes, but there are a few broad ones that will make you smile. But sadly, Grimsby isn’t able to see the film through to the end, just going into toilet humour in an attempt to shock you into laughter.
Score: 5/10 A few good laughs, but nothing worth going to see in the cinema.