Sometime after Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and before Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen was at a crossroads with his comedy: does he expose more social experiments with wry satire or does he stick with outrageous nastiness?
An unmentioned option is to shoot down the middle, but I think even Cohen realized that replicating those results would be like trying to recapture lightning in a bottle. Borat is consistently clever, but the biggest laugh derived from a naked dispute between Cohen’s Kazakhstan journalist and his rotund producer – a pivotal tipping point for the actor/writer.
It was settled: the audience wants more gross-out jokes. Brüno and The Dictator, while offering a surface-deep social commentary, delivered lots and lots of hard-R, tasteless shock comedy. His latest comedy The Brothers Grimsby is Sacha Baron Cohen’s most disgusting work to date, and perhaps one of the grossest movies I’ve ever seen. We now live in a time where movie aficionados can debate on what movie used simulated elephant ejaculate the best (The Brothers Grimsby or Freddy Got Fingered), what film had a better pubic hair-on-the-face pun (The Brothers Grimsby or Jackass Number Two), and what movie utilized animal reproductive organs more creatively (The Brothers Grimsby or…Freddy Got Fingered). Cinema has also earned a new tidbit of trivia: Sacha Baron Cohen, a Golden Globe award winner and Academy Award nominee, has now been featured in two movies where testicles wind up on his face.
There’s rarely an in-between opinion of Sacha Baron Cohen’s current schtick – you either like it or you hate it. Even though I know the actor is capable of much more than wallowing in excretions and other bodily features, I consider myself a Cohen fan. His audacity makes me chuckle and gasp, and not usually in ways where I’m thankful for a dark theatre or home-viewing privacy. His voluntary willingness to work taboos into his work always find a way to surprise me. However, even I found myself a little more taken back than usual with The Brothers Grimsby. Sexual deviancy involving minors and transmitting HIV (or a combination of both) are not usually the inspiration for comedy.
The Brothers Grimsby doesn’t win over naysayers, and the gross-outs will elicit belly laughs from those who expect this brand of lowbrow humour. “Humour is subjective,” as I’ve mentioned and reiterated many times in reviews and in conversation. This reads as a critic copout, but this statement can’t be more relevant in this case. I understand if you feel like I’m capable of much more.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie