15 – 83mins – 2016
While his earliest and most famous alter ego – privileged suburban “rude boy” Ali G – also satirised the less distinguished subsects of modern British culture, at least Sacha Baron Cohen’s voice of da yoof was a subversive stereotype, cleverly used to embarrass the disillusioned middle class fools he chose to interview, starting with The 11 O’Clock Show from 1998-2000.
Over a decade and a half – and four wildly diverse personas of varying success – later, and Baron Cohen has once again turned his focus to the council house-lined estates of Benefit Street Britain with lager loving football hooligan Norman “Nobby” Butcher in action-comedy Grimsby (which was granted the wittier and more inventive title The Brothers Grimsby Stateside).
Except… gone is the self-aware parody underlying Ali G’s brashness. Gone, too, is the cheeky naivety which forgave Borat his cultural faux pas, leaving Nobby as a disgusting, crass, thoughtless yob who embraces loutishness and is blind to the foulness of the pit in which he and his largely extended family dwell. Why? Just because.
I can’t even give Grimsby some slack for its humour, because it is completely devoid of that, instead choosing truly hideous bad taste yuks (Daniel Radcliffe could sue!) over any form of sensitivity as family-proud Nobby tracks down his long-lost brother (Mark Strong) and tags along on his globe trotting top secret MI6 mission which culminates in a horrendously contrived showdown at the 2016 World Cup Finals’ firework finale.
No subject is sacred as AIDS, celebrities, child abuse, elephant penises, gay sex, obesity and the residents of the eponymous Lincolnshire fishing town are mined for some horribly unsubtle and misplaced “jokes”. On more than one occasion I considered storming out in disgust, only placated by the thankfully brisk running time (and the fact I was biding time before The Forest began).
What makes all of this all the more painful and unacceptable is the talent both on and off the screen! Isla Fisher scrapes a pass for being married to the lead actor, while UK small screen stars Johnny Vegas and Ricky Tomlinson can be forgiven for taking a theatrical gig – but what is Penélope Cruz, Mark Strong, Ian McShane and Rebel Wilson’s excuse for signing on for this foul, base dreck?!!
Director Louis LeTerrier was behind the lens of the popular Transporter films (minus last year’s Refuelled) and the frankly fabulous Now You See Me, while one of Baron Cohen’s two co-writers, Peter Baynham, has collaborated on such point-perfect comedic highlights as Alan Partridge, The Day Today and Brass Eye – how could so much talent combine to make this atrociously diabolical insult to the genre??!