Disney updates aside, classic fairy tales, such as those by the original brothers Grimm, tended to be rather, well, grim affairs complete with graphic mutilation, harm coming to innocent children and violent death scenes. I don’t know what the two German authors would have made of “The Brothers Grimsby,” a movie which contains two men on the run hiding out in an elephant vagina, and a running gag about celebrities contacting AIDs, but if they really did have a twisted sense of humor, they might like it. Who knows?
Once upon a time, there were two little inseparable, orphaned brothers from the working class Great Britain town, Grimsby. The oldest, Sacha Baron Cohen, is faced with a dilemma when only one set of parents turns up to adopt a son. Sacha nobly tricks his younger brother (Mark Strong) into going with the couple while he stays behind and remains in the foster care system. Fast-forward twenty-eight years, and he’s a happily married football fan (soccer to Americans), with a wife (Rebel Wilson) and a rambunctious brood of nine. He’s never given up looking for his younger brother, and he finally gets lucky and finds Mark, now a M16 agent, on the job at a conference headed by a woman who vows to “cure the world.” After some wacky high jinks involving Daniel Radcliffe and a boy in a wheelchair, Mark gets into trouble and has to hide out at Sacha’s home, where presumably no one will look. Surprisingly, this doesn’t work, and the two must join forces to elude Mark’s would-be assassin, as well as journey to the World Cup Finals held in Chile, where a deadly virus is set to be unleased. There is a happy ever after, but not before both men have been shot at, had their privates set on fire, and gotten perhaps a bit closer than either would prefer.
There’s one moment which mocks the tropes of action movies, when Mark pitches through a glass window and walks away without a scratch, followed by Sacha, who jumps through the hole and yelps, “Ouch!” Otherwise, there’s a lot that is familiar, such as bombs that are amazingly easy to escape, simply by jumping into the air and flailing one’s limbs comically. Sacha, who’s playing an ordinary bloke whose exercise consists of cheering on his favorite teams, finds his inner Mr. Miyagi, and does some effective kung-fu-ing when his life (and Mark’s) is threatened. There’s also the part where Sacha commandeers the mike at the soccer match and makes a speech defending working-class “scum,” pointing out, “It’s scum like us that built the hospitals that are closing. It’s scum who keeps the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise alive.” This whips them up into a frenzy, and they help defeat the bad guys, although since the actor got a redneck crowd to happily sing a vile song in “Borat,” he’s not a stranger to impromptu eloquence. But despite the raunchy humor, there are a few touching moments, mostly due to the two boys playing their younger selves. Just don’t go to see this movie with anyone who doesn’t find this sort of thing amusing – you will be in for a very awkward hour and a half otherwise.