I enjoyed Borat but that’s about as far as Sacha Baron Cohen humour goes for me. While nothing special, Grimsby at least offers the most entertaining package amongst a library of comedies I fail to grasp the appeal of.
The character of Nobby adds another to Cohens repertoire of offensive stereotypes but feels by far the most forgettable both visually and in terms of jokes. In fact, though I prefer it to Ali G or The Dictator, Nobby is Cohen’s first major role that feels as if could have been played by someone else and not necessarily lost anything. Curiously I enjoyed the dumb fun of Grimsby over the deeper themes of class and clichéd emotional moments which simply seemed forced and derivative. Cohen is known for making allegedly smart comedies but I simply felt more at home with the ludicrous set pieces than the attempts at something more meaningful. I rarely laughed at just Cohen, who seemed stilted balancing low brow humour with genuine emotion at his lost brother, but when on screen with Mark Strong, in my opinion the perfect straight man, the annoying aspects of Nobby just seemed to disappear – Grimsby truly benefits from its odd couple pairing and it led to some real laugh out loud moments, particularly one scene involving elephants which has to be seen to be believed. I really hope to see Strong in more roles like this, his civilised attitude and macho man status allowing a lot of potential humour as he is dragged through a series of increasingly disgusting and painful ordeals. I must say, despite his flaws, Nobbys attempt at a suave, Sean Connery like voice left me in stiches. However, i still feel a majority of the jokes fall flat, given little room to breathe and feeling all too cartoonish in a world where we are clearly meant to emphasise with the protagonist. I commend the child actors on giving believable performances, a hard thing to find in kids, however I just didn’t find it funny with only the suffering of an wheelchair bound, AIDs stricken boy rising a laugh out of me (yes i know how that sounds).
Surprisingly, director Louis Leterrier adds some compelling action to the mix, the opening scene is close to thrilling but the overuse of quick, jumpy cuts spoiled it; the first person action offering only a slight hint at what the upcoming ‘Hardcore Henry’ will achieve. Despite this, I found the cinematography and visual effects mostly bland and forgettable, not giving anything to bring me back for a second viewing. Their is plenty of commentary on display, a staple of Cohens work, but I couldn’t help feeling some of the jokes would be lost to viewers in a few years, if the film remains in peoples conscious at all.
Grimsby’s biggest fault is its unoriginality – in a long line of spy spoofs, Cohen fails to bring his usual twist; making this the most obvious in his library as a film featuring Sacha Baron Cohen, not one by him.