The Brothers Grimsby - We're Done with Sacha Baron Cohen Now, Yes?

Matthew Parkinson | 12 Mar 2016 12:00
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Directed by Louis Leterrier. Produced by Sacha Baron Cohen, Nira Park, Peter Baynham, Ant Hines, and Todd Schulman. Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston, and Peter Baynham. Release date: March 11, 2016.

I think it's time that we seriously have to consider what we're allowing Sacha Baron Cohen to get away with at the cinema. After a couple of rounds with Baron Cohen's characters, it gets tiresome. Borat was the peak, and it's just been downhill from there. That's too bad, since Baron Cohen is undoubtedly talented, funny, and willing to do pretty much anything to get a laugh, but the characters he's played recently, and the films in which they've been included, just haven't worked.

The Brothers Grimsby sees Baron Cohen play Nobby Butcher, a low-class, small town British man who lives for the English football team and the endless number of children he's helped spawn. He misses his brother, from whom he's been estranged for the last 20+ years, but life's going pretty well for him. However, after hearing word his brother was attending an important event, he manages to get inside, find his brother ... and promptly ruin his brother's plan to stop an assassination attempt. His brother, Sebastian (Mark Strong), is a top MI6 agent, and because of Nobby's unwarranted intervention, he's pointed as the assassin - a spy gone rogue. So, Sebastian has to go through the most basic of spy plots in order to clear his good name, taking Nobby with him for plot reasons.

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The idea at play is that this is a spy movie, but one of the spies is a moron. Along the way, he'll make tired pop culture jokes - Donald Trump and Bill Cosby jokes are present here, for example - as well as ones that are meant to shock and offend. More often than not, it feels tired. It's like the creative juices have run out, and Nobby just isn't as strong a character as some of the ones Baron Cohen has played in the past. The jokes, meanwhile, lack the bite, and are more cringeworthy and disgusting than truly funny or offensive. I set my personal expectation at 12 laughs, and The Brothers Grimsby failed to hit even half that number of times.

However, with that said, one of the things that I've always admired about the Baron Cohen-led films is that they know not to overstay their welcome. The Brothers Grimsby runs for just over 80 minutes (with credits), as do all of the films where he plays an outrageous leading character. It's an acknowledgment that an overload of this style of humor will turn audiences away, and it's a savior for a film like this if you're not enjoying yourself. At least it's one of the shortest theatrical experiences of the year. Small victories, right?

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