Sacha Baron Cohen’s career has proven he is a gifted comedian. After starting on television, he developed the alter egos of hip-hop poseur Ali G, misogynistic journalist Borat Sagdiyev, and fashion reporter Bruno. These characters became very popular and starred in spin-off films. Recently, Baron Cohen has continued using political incorrectness and shock value with disappointing results. Now, his new movie has people talking for the wrong reasons.
The Brothers Grimsby is about two brothers who were raised separately. Carl “Nobby” Butcher (Baron Cohen) is a poor English hooligan with several children. He desires to reunite with his brother Sebastian (Mark Strong), who works as a British spy. After 28 years, they are reunited as a terrorist plot is discovered. Sebastian is accused of murder and turns to Nobby to clear his name.
While the plot sounds simple, the film delves into crude jokes and shock attempts to get laughs. As expected, the story uses gross-out gags and political humour to a large degree. Apart from a humorous Bill Cosby joke, the movie has Donald Trump contract the AIDs virus. This gag feels mean-spirited, tasteless and out of place.
Another reason why The Brothers Grimsby failed is the marketing. Whereas Ali G Indahouse, Borat and Bruno used publicity stunts, the campaign lists Baron Cohen as the creator of those characters. In the trailers, archive footage of Ali G and Borat is shown. In essence, the actor is piggybacking off his past career.
Baron Cohen hasn’t had much focus in the media lately. His last movie, The Dictator, was neither a commercial or critical hit. However, he did appear in Hugo and Les Miserables, both of which proved to be successful. Still, it should be noted that Baron Cohen was part of an ensemble cast, rather than the star.
Furthermore, Baron Cohen pulled out of the upcoming Queen biopic, in which he was to play the band’s singer Freddie Mercury. This movie has been a passion for the actor, who has been attached to the role for years. Although Baron Cohen cites creative differences, it has been reported the producers, Queen bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor, weren’t keen on having him play Mercury.
Sacha Baron Cohen can make a return to form in movies or television. Several figures in the industry struggle with maintaining their careers, but it doesn’t mean they lack talent. One can hope we haven’t seen the last of Ali G or Borat. Both of those characters turned out to be successful. Ali G made an appearance at the 89th Academy Awards. Perhaps Borat is itching for a comeback.