Grimsby: You’d need to be stoned to find this Sacha Baron Cohen movie funny

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Rebel Wilson and Sacha Baron Cohen as a married couple in Grimsby
Rebel Wilson and Sacha Baron Cohen as a married couple in Grimsby Credit: Grimsby

With Rebel Wilson’s accusations of a hostile work environment on the set of Grimsby, you might be saying, “Which movie was that again?”.

You probably didn’t see it because not that many did – despite its onscreen pyrotechnics (we’ll get to that in a bit), Grimsby failed to soar at the box office and didn’t even make back its $US35 million production budget.

But you might be curious, especially about the scenes in which Wilson claimed Sacha Baron Cohen pressured her to insert her finger up his butt.

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We’re going to save you the trouble, there is no point in wasting your time on Grimsby, even if it’s only 83 minutes long, it’s 83 minutes you could devote to clearing the spider-webs in your garage. Or, you know, watching something good.

The spy comedy, that’s a very generous use of the word comedy, has exactly one chuckle-worthy joke – a dig at FIFA. To find four, maybe even five, things to laugh at, you’d have to be in an advanced state of inebriation or be super stoned.

Sacha Baron Cohen stars in Grimsby
Not Liam Gallagher. Credit: Supplied

The gist of the story is Nobby (Baron Cohen) is a council estate “imbecile” with 11 children, a grandkid or two, and is obsessed with football. He hasn’t seen his estranged brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) in 28 years but keeps a shrine to him.

Sebastian is a secret super spy and when Nobby accidentally derails one of his missions, simultaneously killing the head of the World Health Organisation and infecting Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe with HIV, the pair go on the run.

Sebastian’s employers think he’s gone rogue and want him eliminated and the now reunited brothers (begrudgingly on Seb’s part) also have to stop a plotter whose endgame is to cull the world’s “idiot” population.

The villain decries the likes of Nobby as welfare leaners who have never contributed to society, merely procreating at an inordinate rate.

Baron Cohen has previously successfully deployed his provocative and crass sense of humour to make astute observations about power structures, turning the mirror on those who judge others without any self-awareness. Borat is an extraordinary feat of comedy and social critique. Americans have never looked so clueless about their own failings.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong star in Grimsby.
Picture: Supplied
Poor Mark Strong, he deserved better than this. Credit: Daniel Smith

There’s probably a version of Grimsby that is supposed to celebrate the maligned English lower class to which Nobby, his family and his community belong (even though everyone in his town seems to have afforded travel and tickets to a FIFA grand final in Chile).

But Grimsby is far too obsessed with being as disgusting as it can possibly be in some vain attempt to provoke a pearl-clutching response.

There are extended set-pieces involving engorged elephant penises and showers of animal semen, another with brotherly scrotum-sucking. There is also the endless parade of asinine fart and arse crack “jokes”.

Remember that infamous 2012 NT News headline “Why I stuck a cracker up my clacker”? Well, that happens here. Twice.

Maybe Grimsby thought it was being offensive. It’s not interesting enough to be offensive. It’s mostly just exhausting.

The only note of grace is that the story is ultimately centred around a fractured relationship between brothers making their way back to each other – although the needle drop of Oasis’s “Cigarettes and Alcohol” seems like a cruel and ironic taunt.

Grimsby didn’t make back its box office. Credit: Supplied

The spy thriller element would be confusing if you could actually muster any care for where that story was going, and hiring action director Louis Leterrier was a waste.

It barely needs to be said, but it’s worth mentioning that Wilson’s onscreen role as Nobby’s wife was reduced to sex object who had no purpose other than to be an orifice or the target of fat jokes. Similarly, Annabelle Wallis may as well have not been there. And Gabourey Sidibe, here’s hoping she was at least paid well.

Even Baron Cohen’s wife, Isla Fisher, was saddled with the archetype of supportive colleague/love interest who has no other personality besides being secretly in love with Sebastian.

The most surprising thing about Grimsby is that this movie was released in 2016. Unless you were acutely aware of its existence (again, so few were), you would swear this came out in the noughties.

It’s hard to fathom that any studio signed off on this pointless, joyless and IQ-less dribble so recently.

Rating: 1/5

Grimsby is available for digital rental


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