There is really only one way of determining whether or not Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest endeavor, Grimsby, directed by Louis Leterrier, is for you – and it’s by answering the following question: does the idea of the talented comic sucking on Mark Strong’s testicles sound funny, or does it sound repulsive? If you’re in the former camp, or even happy to settle on a mixture of the two, then this film may just be up your street. If you remain stringently in the latter camp, then avoid this film at all costs – because the aforementioned scene is not even a patch on what’s in store, believe me.
Cohen plays the endearingly dimwitted Nobby, who spends the majority of time down the local, while raising his nine children with his partner, Lindsey (Rebel Wilson). He dreams of being reunited with his brother, who was adopted at a young age and raised in London. Their paths finally cross, though, at the most inconvenient of times. Nobby finds Sebastian (Strong), a secret agent, preparing for a vital shot. The subsequent embrace means he pulls the trigger early, however, and accidentally shoots an ambassador for world peace. Now a target for the government, the pair are on the run, desperate to identify and track down the real assassin Sebastian was there to take out, and help clear his name.
Similarly to an approach Cohen has taken across his illustrious career, he remains relevant and satirical, though it simply doesn’t lend itself as well to big screen endeavors, for the jokes about Donald Trump and Bill Cosby will be outdated before too long, and cinema is a timeless art-form. That said, the irreverence is most certainly perennial, and it’s where this film truly comes into its element. Cohen would undoubtedly admit to the film’s nonsensicality with a big grin smacked across his face – and that’s why it works, and why this is so persistently funny. If he had taken this any more seriously it would be a disaster, but he doesn’t, and you’ve simply got to take this for what it is.
Conversely, the intimate moments enrich the experience too, and actually do more for the viewer than the generic shoot-out set pieces, which is where Grimsby loses its way. It’s funnier when more simplistic, and dealing with the family dynamic and painting a deliberately, overstated and farcical picture of working-class life in the North of England, to devastatingly humorous effect.
For all of the positives, though, there is a sense of unoriginality that lingers over proceedings, particularly given we’re dealing with such a creative, innovative force in British comedy, and so a spy movie spoof does seem like rather easy territory. But Cohen thrives so predominantly in the shock factor that any attempt to be profound would undoubtedly backfire, and feel so gloriously out of place. Fair to say that we’re dealing with somebody who definitely knows what he’s doing.