Sacha Baron Cohen returns with a new film, Grimsby. When a football loving, Grimsby native, family man Nobby (Cohen) finally reconnects with his long lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong), he gets swept up in the secret spy world, where he must help his brother to clear his name and save the world. It’s a much more mainstream plot for Baron Cohen, the mastermind behind comedy giants Ali G and Borat, but unfortunately it’s not one of his most memorable.
After a mission gone wrong, Sebastian enlists Nobby’s help in clearing his name and defeating the mysterious organisation who soiled it, who have much more up their sleeve. This usual spy shtick leads to usual spy antics – including mistaken sexual encounters, gun mishaps and the occasional animal – but it’s nothing new or exciting; it doesn’t fight very hard to set itself apart from other spy films or comedies out recently. It is a funny film, but the best humour is found in the one liners, or small jokes, that get overshadowed by the bigger comedic moments of the film. Fans of Cohen’s films will love the outrageous humour, but a lot of the film – especially the bigger moments – are actually quite hard to watch. Some moments are so beyond cringe-worthy that they will leave you sick to your stomach, playing much more to shock value but taking it further than funny, and because of that much of the audience will be lost.
More than just a spy story, Grimsby is a story about brothers and friendship. As Nobby and Sebastian work together to defeat their mysterious villain, we learn about the death of their parents when they were children, and how they came to be separated. These flashbacks gave the film heart, and further developed the characters in a meaningful way, yet it jarred against the rest of the outrageous film; it felt like you were watching two different stories at once, and they didn’t mix well.
Cohen’s films and characters are inseparable; like in Borat, his films wouldn’t work without their main character, who is often the best part of the film. Yet Grimsby and Nobby would work quite well separately – it feels like the film doesn’t fully utilise Nobby’s comedic range, limiting him mostly to dick jokes, when there could’ve been much cleverer humour. Cohen’s strength is his characters, and Nobby is no exception, as many of the funnier bits of the film are little quirks of his character, such as his smoking. Mark’s Strong’s Sebastian is an interesting foil, and Strong is actually really funny, his chemistry with Cohen is lots of fun. However, Rebel Wilson as Nobby’s girlfriend Dawn was nothing new, a typical Rebel Wilson character, and was a little bit disappointing.
With such a reputation behind him, there is an expectation for Sacha Baron Cohen to be inventive, clever; yet Grimsby feels less like his film. The typical spy comedy, with an average story and decent humour, is only really saved by the characters: Nobby is a great character. If only the film had known that.
Here’s my list of the top five films starring the cast of Grimsby:
- Borat – Sacha Baron Cohen
- Kinsgman: the Secret Service – Mark Strong
- Confessions of a Shopaholic – Isla Fisher
- Pitch Perfect – Rebel Wilson
- Ali G – Sacha Baron Cohen