In 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen wrote and starred in “Borat,” one of the most prescient and hilarious satirical films of the millennia. Fast forward to 2016, and he has stooped to the level of taking elephant ejaculation to the face in “The Brothers Grimsby.” There’s no context that makes this sound smart or redeemable. The film is just giddy about the idea of a sight gag involving a giant pachyderm penis.
It has been quite frustrating to watch Cohen evolve backwards over the past decade, growing less socially engaged and more juvenile with each successive film. “The Brothers Grimsby,” admittedly, might have some more local flavorings lost on American audiences. Cohen stars as Nobby Butcher, a low-class British football (soccer) hooligan with little intelligence and a high blood-alcohol level. His long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) leads a completely opposite life as an MI6 agent, a suave operator who fashions himself a real-life James Bond.
The two improbably link up as Sebastian investigates a crime syndicate intent on launching a bioweapon and end up on the run together. Their misadventures take the duo to South Africa and South America, but no matter the location, Nobby manages to run amuck of the rules of engagement – as well as common sense. It’s a role imitated by Cohen outside the film, too. He’s proving once again to be the master of the gross-out moment, though it feels like he’s only intent on proving this to himself. The disgusting humor produces a quick groan at the given scene and never gets rerouted into a larger concept or idea that should draw a more existential disgust.
Everyone knows Cohen can do so much more than “The Brothers Grimsby.” Why he seems intent on doing so little just baffles the mind. C /