When a movie's highlight is a thoroughly repulsive scene where two men hiding inside an elephant's vagina become trapped there as the animal is gang-banged, it is pretty telling evidence the project is a bit of a disaster. In a far, far, far cry from Sacha Baron Cohen's provocative, hysterically pointed past satires2006's "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
," 2009's "Bruno
," and 2012's "The Dictator
""The Brothers Grimsby" is a lead-footed spy comedy so disinterested in its story, characters, comic timing and middling emotional trajectory it feels less like a completed film and more like a vague but gratingly unpleasant fever dream.
The plot makes little to no impression, but here goes. Separated when they were children following the deaths of their parents, brothers Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Sebastian (Mark Strong) are reunited 30 years later as decidedly very different adults. Sebastian, an accomplished secret agent, and Nobby, a bumbling, hard-living father of eleven, are diametric opposites. When an assassination attempt on actress-philanthropist Rhonda George (Penélope Cruz) at a WorldCure event is intercepted by Sebastian's accidental shooting of an AIDS-afflicted youthwhose infected blood, it should be said, sprays into Daniel Radcliffe's mouththe MI6 agent must go into hiding. His undercover status lasts all of five minutes when he relocates to Nobby's blue-collar town of Grimsby, a place where no one is mentally capable of keeping a secret. In over their heads and targeted by criminal masterminds, the brothers have no choice but to team up as they edge closer to uncovering a larger nefarious master plan.
"The Brothers Grimsby" was directed by Louis Letterier (2013's "Now You See Me
") and written by Baron Cohen, Peter Johnston (2016's "Zootopia
") and Phil Baynham (2014's "Alan Partridge
"), the lot of them clearly having an off day. Not only does no one seem to be trying, the actors are unable to shield their knowing faces of embarrassment and contempt. They have a right to be dissatisfied, with an ensemble of usually terrific female performersIsla Fisher (2012's "Bachelorette
") as operative Jodie; Rebel Wilson (2016's "How to Be Single
") as Nobby's fun-loving girlfriend Dawn; Gabourey Sidibe (2014's "White Bird in a Blizzard
") as a Cape Town maid whom Nobby seduces, and Penélope Cruz (2013's "The Counselor
") as the shady Rhonda Georgeuniformly wasted on humiliating nothing roles that require they either talk on phones a lot or get ridiculed for their physical appearance.
Bereft of anything to think about or anyone to care about, its amount of earned laughs easily counted on one hand, "The Brothers Grimsby" is a crass assault lacking perspective and purpose. Any subject can be funny with the right handling of the material, but the juvenile gags hereinones involving scatology, incest, bestiality, the AIDS virus, and a callous disregard for lifeare duds through and through. As long-lost, suddenly-found siblings Nobby and Sebastian, Sacha Baron Cohen is on autopilot, trapped in his own desperately tasteless screenplay, while Mark Strong (2012's "Zero Dark Thirty
") appears to be in outright misery. Their relationship should be the heart of the film, but unfortunately the film doesn't have a heart. Even at less than 80 minutes sans end credits, "The Brothers Grimsby" is about as pleasant as elephant semen to the face.