The Brothers Grimsby (2016)

The Brothers Grimsby, poster

Released: March 11, 2016. Directed by: Louis Leterrier. Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher. Runtime: 1hr, 23 min.

I’m a huge fan of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – the titular journalist character is rather brilliant. And his creation of the character Ali G was also quite funny.

His comedic work really makes him a unique figure, but he hasn’t made a great comedic character since Borat – as both the titular character in Brüno and Aladeen in The Dictator were hit-and-miss.

With Nobby Butcher in The Brothers Grimsby, he creates another hit-and-miss character – but at least gives him some stronger development. Nobby is a drunken football hooligan cheating the welfare system, living in the poverty-stricken town of Grimsby, cheering for his main team England.

When he was a kid, he was separated from his younger brother Sebastian through Grimsby’s orphanage system. Sebastian (Mark Strong) is now the top agent of MI6, on assignment to prevent the assassination of philanthropist Rhonda George (Penelope Cruz), and to uncover a huge terrorism plot by a group called Maelstrom.

When Nobby is able to get tickets to the charity ball and reunite with his brother after 28 years, he hugs him which causes Sebastian to miss his shot on an assassin (Scott Adkins) and hit a spokesperson instead. This mistake causes the other MI6 agents to think he has gone rogue – and Nobby and Sebastian are forced on the run.

The Brothers Grimsby - Hug it out

Grimsby is another addition to the cannon of unlikely people finding themselves in bigger-than-themselves spy missions as a spy, like Johnny English and Spy. While the world created here is a good base for Nobby’s hijinks, he is nowhere near as amusing as Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English or as hilarious as Melissa McCarthy’s Susan Cooper in Spy.

The story is a bit heartwarming with the brother dynamic but the really raunchy and often gross-out humour rarely hits. The action set pieces are pretty good, well-filmed with Louis Leterrier’s style of direction.

The film is at its most effective in terms of comedy when Nobby is making awful decisions – but humour is ineffective when they hide away from government assassins inside of an elephant, and get stuck in there during mating hour. Yuck.

One masterwork of Grimsby is the casting of Mark Strong. It feels like he could be cast as an actual MI6 agent in a spy franchise so that’s what helps create a believable world. He does his job as the straight man for Nobby’s jokes, even though Nobby’s humour never really hit for me.

At least the film doesn’t stick around for very long. The only part worth rooting about is Donald Trump being the butt of a joke. He’s horrendously rendered via CGI, and there’s a really bad stand-in Daniel Radcliffe as well, but those are really the only jokes that hit for me. And the fact that Nobby’s look is based off of Liam Gallagher’s look is amusing.

Score: 40/100

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

 

Released: January 22, 2016. Directed by: Dan Mazer. Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch. Runtime: 1hr 42 min.

This comedy feels like screenwriter John Phillips lost a bet and since he lost, he had to write a screenplay with filthy joke after filthy joke. Dirty Grandpa is the result.

This follows Jason Kelly (Zac Efron), a boring corporate lawyer who’s about to get married to the most basic, control freak fiancé to come on film this year, named Meredith (a forgettable Julianne Hough).

Jason’s grandma just died and he now has to drive his ex-Special Forces grandfather, an appropriately named Dick (Robert De Niro), down to Florida, hoping to prolong the tradition of going down to Florida this time of year. While Jason has to be home for the rehearsal dinner, Dick begins to show his true colours and tricks Jason to Daytona Beach for spring break.

Raunchy and offensive, and just about as crude as it can get at every turn, Dirty Grandpa fails in just about every respect. It shouldn’t be confused with Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, because that’s actually funny in its own mischievous way.

I hope me not liking the film makes me sound like every old white critic out there that didn’t like the film because it’s offensive. I’m only 21, damn it!

But I’m the target audience, and I found this to be a pointless experiment in shocking the audience at every turn.

DeNiro’s Dick Kelly is an unlikable, racist, homophobic, perverted old fart who also has an obsession with poking Efron’s Jason in the butt and twisting his nipples. This grandpa is so awful, he makes me want to call my own grandfathers and thank them for not being perverted old freaks.

The film was super uneven in its tone, which was frustrating. It wanted to be balls to the wall crude, but also shoved dramatic pieces in there. They’re heartwarming when they come – but only a minute later, it’s interrupted by a De Niro stunt penis on Zac Efron’s pillow or De Niro arbitrarily commenting on Andre the Giant’s massive fingers and what he can do with them in the bedroom.

The bizarre crudeness undermines any sentiment the film has to offer – like a bizarrely heartwarming karaoke duet with Zoey Deutch that almost brings Efron back to his High School Musical days. Take a look at him now, Disney.

Plaza has a filthy turn as Lenore, who’s trying to get with Dick because she thinks he is a professor and that’s on her slutty bucket list.

Dirty Grandpa

Zac Efron and Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa (Source

Along the way, they meet Shadia (Zoey Deutch, Vampire Academy), who attended photography school with Jason. She’s the only one who doesn’t get raunchy dialogue – and should feel the least embarrassed to be in this smut.

I love crude humour. But only when it’s funny. This just felt like it took a shrapnel accuracy approach to comedy — writing filthy jokes and seeing what sticks. Plot twist: Nothing does stick.

It’s a predictable farce that results in an early contender for the year’s worst film. Dan Mazer (producer on Brüno) directs the actors on what looks like their first take. They say dialogue that’s supposed to be funny, but rarely is. The cast tries their very best and the film isn’t their fault.

It’s bad writing and dreadful jokes, which only made me laugh once. At this point, I’m trying to forget Efron and De Niro were ever in something so damn desperate.

The epitome of desperation in the film is a scene with Efron waking up the beach nude after a night of partying, only a stuffed bee covering his nether regions.

A young child then comes over, using vocabulary like “He let me kiss it” and “I stroked it” when his petrified father comes over. It looks like he molested the poor kid – and for Dirty Grandpa, this is their below the rock bottom of desperate comedy.

In certain scenes I was truly debating walking out, which is something I haven’t considered since 2013’s Grown Ups 2. So in a way, the filmmakers won. They nearly shocked me out of the movie. Congratulations?

1 star

The Dictator (2012)

The DictatorThe Dictator

Release Date: May 16, 2012

Director: Larry Charles

Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Anna Farris

Runtime: 98 min (Extended Version)

The Republic of Wadiya is ruled by an eccentric and oppressive leader named Hafez Aladeen. Aladeen is summoned to New York to a UN assembly to address concerns about his country’s nuclear weapons program, but the trip goes awry.

The Dictator is exactly what you’ll expect from a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. It’s going to be rude, crude, filled with racist and sexist remarks, it’s sometimes pretty nasty, usually stupid and hilarious, and it’ll probably have some male frontal nudity. Cohen’s films are usually pretty stupid, but this one actually has a nice plot.
It’s sort of like a Prince and the Pauper premise. When Aladeen and his advisors get to America, his right-hand man – Tamir (Ben Kingsley) – backstabs him to by replacing him with a dim-witted doppelgänger. He must find a way to get to a new signing of a UN document, because Tamir wants democracy in Wadiya. Aladeen must pair up with Zoey, a hairy little woman who looks like a ten-year old boy (as Aladeen calls her) to stop the signing of the document and keep democracy out of his country. Women’s rights? Voting? Who wants that?

It is boring in the beginning, but it finds its pacing and it gets pretty interesting and even funnier. It is sometimes pretty nasty and ridiculous, but that’s just Cohen’s brand of humour. If you don’t like that sort of stuff, this won’t be your type of movie. But for the aimed demographic, they’ll love this treat. However, while it may be nasty at times, it usually is really funny. The rudeness of it all is just not for everyone. It really offers a fun experience for any of those who can appreciate it.

The concept of a woman’s love changing a man for the better has been used many times before, so Cohen resorts to an old age tale in that way. However, it isn’t like he’s a slacker or anything, he’s a dictator who thinks he executed hundreds of people. Zoey starts to change his ways, and she teaches him how to masturbate in a sort of hilarious scene that includes an eagle soaring majestically and Forrest Gump breaking out of his leg brace. Leave it to Cohen to think of things that are so ridiculous, but so funny.

Someone who also helps Aladeen is a missile developer back in Wadiya, Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) who Aladeen thought was “executed”, but he was really sent to America. He shares many of Aladeen’s beliefs, but they make this film feel like a buddy comedy at some points in the film. One really odd character is this sort of ninja who uses her ginormous boob as a weapon. Remember when Borat nude wrestles with Azamat in Borat? Well, this woman sort of beats Aladeen up with her big tit… It’s a little odd, even for anyone who enjoys Cohen’s unique sense of humour… But he is one edgy guy, and it’s certainly never been done before.

The Dictator is an attempt from Cohen that is much better than Brüno, but it’s no Borat. However, he makes a great attempt at stringing a good plot line, and bringing us a great new character in the process. It offers some fine entertainment value for the time-being, and it’s a fun and funny experience. It’s a great racist comedy that finds its pacing when he and his crew get to America. It’s fine that he used the Prince and the Pauper premise, but he does resort to the old-age tale of women changing men for the better. Whatever, you did us well, Cohen.

70/100