We've come to expect Sacha Baron Cohen's movies to be bad-taste comedies which are at least vaguely about something. Characters like Ali G, Bruno and Borat all mocked social norms or satirised wonky attitudes and opinions. Grimsby is different. It's a silly, raucous, unashamedly juvenile fish-out-of-water comedy about two very different brothers, Sebastian (Mark Strong), a slick spy, and Nobby (Baron Cohen), a football-loving layabout, who were separated as kids at an orphanage.
Grimsby doesn't pretend to have much to say about anything – notwithstanding a final tongue-in-cheek plea on behalf of 'scum' ("It's scum who keep the Fast and Furious franchise alive"), which plays more as a late gag than a theme. Instead it rides on base-level shock and awe, patched together with knob jokes, fat jokes, semen jokes, HIV jokes and arse jokes. If you're looking for a message, you'll be disappointed.
The film reunites the brothers and quickly sends them on the run. Director Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans) drags the pair through the short, sharp ordeal of a spirited action comedy, all quick cuts and daring stunts, and one that just happens to feature an endearing but relatively limp Sacha Baron Cohen character at its core.
Fears that Grimsby'might poke fun at the likes of Nobby disappear when you realise that he's just an excuse to catapult a clown – any clown would do – into scenarios as far-flung and unlikely as a South African game reserve, a World Health Organisation conference in London and a football final in Chile. You're never far from a punchline involving shit, genitals, cum or arseholes. The film is at its best when it wears its immaturity proudly. There's a memorable scene involving a herd of elephants and a giant phallus which includes the terrified yell: "It's an elephant bukkake party!" Grimsby is a riotous mess – part I-dare-you-comedy, part circus, part action flick. Nobby is hardly a character for the ages. He's a basic fool. The movie, too, is chaotic and crude. But its lack of sophistication, like its odd mix of souped-up action and base comedy, ultimately feels like a badge of honour.