Review: Grimsby (2016)

For The Australia Times: There are expectations when going into a Sacha Baron Cohen film.

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Directed by: Louis Letterier
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe

There are expectations when going into a Sacha Baron Cohen film. Whether its because of his established list of alter egos and their outrageous antics or the anticipation of even more shocking moments, viewers went into his newest flick Grimsby with high hopes for a new cultural phenomenon. But the line between provocation and shock is blurred in this new scripted comedy mixing together espionage and class comedy.

Grimsby centers on a soccer hooligan from Grimsby, England, with Oasis hair and attitude, called Nobby (Baron Cohen). He is shown as being the ultimate stereotype of the UK working class – drinking heavily, drug taking and reproducing like crazy some of the antics we are exposed to early on.

But the real story and comedy is derived from him discovering that his long lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) is now an explosive secret agent and the struggle between Nobby’s moronic tendencies and Sebastian’s seriousness. And considering it’s a Sacha Baron Cohen production, there’s loads of crass jokes, sex, nudity and smart quips that provide more commentary that one would expect.

While this is Baron Cohen’s film, Strong is easy the best in show. Playing it straight and easily breathing life into the film, Strong’s character is what makes Nobby seem like another forgettable attempt by Baron Cohen. Tackling the quintessential northern British male, it’s a caricature that often misses and feels out dated.

Isla Fisher also appears at times in an important but undistinguished role that could have done without her. Also Penelope Cruz pops up (and I use “pop up” as she appears for about 20 minutes of screen time in this overlong comedy. Rebel Wilson is also around for a bit, but as a character that is all together meaningless.

But no one comes to these films looking for Oscar worthy acting, but rather brash, honest, and hilarious writing. Grimsby doesn’t fail to provide many laughs – not as much as old Sacha Baron Cohen flicks – but still a decent amount. There’s a truly revolting scene with an elephant that is more original than anything Hollywood has produced in years and is still laugh out loud funny. It’s mock Bond behaviour and style gives it a different twist, though seems to copy Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy in that respect.

It’s by no means comedy gold, but Grimsby is a good addition to the collection of Sacha Baron Cohen films. If you aren’t a convert, this won’t change your mind. But for the fans and the easy-stomached, this will be a whirlwind movie that will stay with you and make you laugh in those quiet moments.

Originally published in The Australia Times, 23 April, 2016.


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