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

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Triple review: ‘Bedtime Stories,’ ‘Mr. Deeds’ and ‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan’

These are a few Sandler movies that are being reviewed from memory…

Bedtime StoriesReleased: December 25, 2008. Director: Adam Shankman. Stars: Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce. Runtime: 99 min.

“Bedtime Stories” is imaginative and it’s one of Sandler’s more family-friendly efforts, but it’s lame, boring and forgettable.

Score38/100

 

Mr. Deeds

 

Released: June 28, 2002. Director: Steven Brill. Stars: Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro. Runtime: 96 min.

“Mr. Deeds” is a watchable Adam Sandler movie. You root for Longfellow Deeds because he’s a small-town guy trying to adapt to the big city life, and he’s likeable enough to wish for his happiness. Ryder’s character at first is extremely unlikeable. Like most comedies (with hints of romance), it’s predictable – and you’ll see Ryder’s change of heart from 96 minutes away. There’s a few laugh-out-loud moments (“I think I just shat myself!”) and a lot of chuckles, so it’s an entertaining comedy that I find myself always watching when it’s on TV. John Turturro is amusing in his supporting role. But I assume it’s inferior to the original, but I can’t comment on that because I haven’t seen it.

Score70/100

You Don't Mess with the ZohanReleased: June 6, 2008. Director: Dennis Dugan. Stars: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui. Runtime: 113 min.

I watched this on TV the other week. I was half-paying attention and half on the computer, but even as part-background noise, it was still as awful as I remember it being at the theatre. The plot isn’t entirely stupid (An Israeli Special Forces Soldier fakes his death so he can re-emerge in New York City as a hair stylist), at least compared to some of Sandler’s other works, but the humour is stupid. I like politically incorrect humour – but all I ask is that it’s funny, like some of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work (mostly just “Borat”). Sacha Baron Cohen, Sandler is not. This is a middling effort, but at least there’s an effort to make his character memorable, since he isn’t distinctive in all of his average guy roles. It’s really too bad that it’s also one of his worst characters. John Turturro tries his best, but even he can’t make this enjoyable.

Score38/100

Hugo (2011)

Hugo

Release Date: November 23, 2011Director: Martin ScorseseStars: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben KingsleyRuntime: 126 min.

Hugo is a fantastic film that really sweeps the audience up with its charm, lavish production design, engaging cinematography and thoroughly impressive visuals. One great thing about this is that it isn’t only a marvelous piece of cinema, eye candy or a great film of technical achievements, but it’s a fairly simple and emotional mystery that is easy to follow, but it also gives something special for us film buffs and older audiences alike.

Film buffs might have the mystery figured out by the time they understand who a primary character is, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be a compelling watch. There’s some real emotion in the concept of being forgotten, as we all we want to be respected in some way and we know what it’s like to be neglected at some point. In this way, we can really relate to some of the characters. Hugo also knows what it’s like to be alone as he as an orphan, and it’s really something more most can relate to.

The antagonist, a train inspector portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen, is also very funny, and he has an extra real layer, because he has one bad leg and he knows what it’s like to be an outcast. His character might as well just be called the Orphan catcher. Cohen has proven to be a versatile performer, as he voices a King lemur in the animated Madagascar series; he has taken on roles in musicals like Sweeney Todd and Les Misérables; while he still plays his signature characters of a flamboyant Austrian trying to make his way in the film industry (Bruno), an Anti-semetic foreigner (Borat) and his most recent character of General Aladeen in The Dictator. He’s really a rare and great talent, if you can get past his tendency to always show frontal nudity. Ben Kingsley also offers a great performance, as do the young actors, Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield.

Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s ode to film. It’s also a great ode to one of the greatest pioneers of the film industry (watch the film and find out who!), all wrapped up in a magnificent family adventure that is truly delightful and one of the finest films of 2011. It’s a must-see for cinephiles everywhere, and it’s a visual treat for the whole family.

Score91/100

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