Mark Reviews Movies

The Brothers Grimsby

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY

1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Louis Leterrier

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Ian McShane, Rebel Wilson, Penélope Cruz, Gabourey Sidibe, Annabelle Wallis

MPAA Rating: R (for strong crude sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language, and some drug use)

Running Time: 1:23

Release Date: 3/11/16


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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 11, 2016

The funniest scene in The Brothers Grimsby is of the scatological variety. Wait, hear me out here.

It involves a clogged toilet. No, seriously, give it a moment. The reason it's funny will make sense soon.

Our protagonist is in a fancy resort in South Africa, and after doing his business, he discovers that the toilet won't flush. He's waiting on a woman, whom he believes is the wife of a deadly assassin, in order to seduce her, but because of his understanding of beauty standards, he has accidentally tried to seduce a hotel maid. The wife of the assassin arrives at his room to seduce him, and he thinks she is with the hotel's cleaning staff. Her flirtation begins while he tries to explain what needs to be fixed in his room.

She's talking about one thing, and he's talking about something else entirely. It's an easy bit, of course, but it's still funny, because the actors play it relatively straight, the descriptions are amusing, and director Louis Leterrier never actually shows us what's in the toilet. That last part is vital to the gag's success, because it means the filmmakers are trusting us to draw our own conclusions about the contents of the commode. If we actually saw what's in there, it might get a cheap, repulsed laugh, but leaving it to the imagination is much funnier.

I desperately want to juxtapose the basic effectiveness of this scene with one that is its polar opposite, but that would mean describing the scene I have in mind. The best, most decent way to do that, I suppose, is to explain the logic of the character who sets off the scene, and then the rest of it, hopefully (for me, but unfortunately for you), will follow.

The man whose thought process begins the gag is Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen), a soccer hooligan. Nobby drinks too much, is obsessed with soccer, and often gets into fights as a result of the two. He lives in abject poverty with his always-horny wife (Rebel Wilson) and their dozen kids. The couple lets the TV babysit their kids, which leads to a moment in which Nobby notes a nature documentary explaining the sizeable reproductive system of female African elephants. That might seem like a useless thing to point out right now, but give it a bit of time.

He has spent almost three decades waiting for the return of his long-lost brother. The two were separated after the death of their parents. Sebastian (Mark Strong) was adopted by a good family, and he has since become an international spy with MI6. Nobby tracks him down to a lavish event, where Sebastian is attempting to stop the assassination of a famous actress/philanthropist (Penélope Cruz). An ill-timed hug leads Sebastian's shot to go wild, resulting in the bullet hitting a wheelchair-bound child who has become an icon for peace in the Middle East. Leterrier's camera follows the blood into the mouth and bloodstream of a well-known actor, because the "joke" is that the kid has AIDS.

MI6 believes Sebastian has gone rogue, and the head of Sebastian's outfit (Ian McShane) puts out a kill order on him. Nobby decides to help his brother hide, while Sebastian tries to find the real assassin with the help of a sympathetic MI6 agent (Isla Fisher) on the inside.

That's the plot. Remember the documentary about the reproductive systems of elephants? Well, after the toilet incident, Nobby and Sebastian have to hide from the team sent to kill them. Nobby spots a herd of elephants, and at this point, any attentive viewers will be way ahead of the joke before it happens.

The hiding is a success, and at this point, it's worth pointing out that the screenplay (written by Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston, and Peter Baynham) isn't content with just one step in its gross-out humor. In addition to the AIDS "joke," this is a movie that, before the elephant gag, has shown, in graphic detail, Nobby sucking poison out of his brother's scrotum in various positions. This is a movie that will later have Nobby and Sebastian, with their pants around their ankles, sitting atop big fireworks. It then proceeds to show us the physical results of the act.

In other words, yes, a male elephant approaches the brothers in their gynecological hiding spot. The question is whether the movie will take the approach of the clogged-toilet gag or go for the easy, disgusting shock. Let's put it this way: They went to the trouble of making a life-sized replica of a female elephant's reproductive system for The Brothers Grimsby. At this point, do you even have to ask whether or not the male prosthetic functions?

Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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