Med City Movie Guy: Can't-miss premise whiffs in 'Grimsby'

Phil Johnston Former KTTC reporter screenwriter for Wreck-It-Ralph

I've said this many times before. The best source of green power is to harness the energy from our Founding Fathers spinning in their gravesover what passes as protected speech.

I mean, in what DC comics' Multiverse, having just screened a film in which the two leads hide inside the cavity of an elephant while a stream of male suitors line up to make sexy time with it, would Jefferson and Madison nod to each other and say, "Yeah, that's what we meant!"?

But that is the state of the art. At least it is in the world of Sacha Baron Cohen("Borat"), whose new comedy " The Brothers Grimsby" bucks convention with its risky "let's take a solid premise and make it repulsive" strategy.

Nobby Butcher (Cohen) has never stopped hoping that one day he might be reunited with his younger brother Sebastian ( Mark Strong), from whom he was separated when both were placed in an orphanage. He even keeps a spare room waiting in the cramped home he shares with his 11 children and wife Dawn ( Rebel Wilson) who strikes a pose Nobby claims is "exactly like Sharon Stone in 'Basic Instinct.'" (Yeah … about that …)

Sebastian, now an MI6 agent, has all but forgotten Nobby until the two meet at a fundraiser and go on to save the planet from a virus that a philanthropic actress ( Penélope Cruz) wants to unleash to reduce the population by "deleting the garbage of the world," the two billion "with their hands out." How rude.


That right there, " Dumb and Dumber" meets James Bond, couldn't miss. So Cohen and one-time Rochesterite Phil Johnston(see sidebar) had to do a few rewrites, apparently, so it would.

There are some solid gags — Nobby rolling-down his bulletproof window to taunt shooters, the opening mattress test, and his redemption scene (even movies like this have character arcs) where he says, with a huge skyrocket carrying the virus payload in his bum, "Tell my kids that daddy died with dignity."

But too much is tiresome humor. There is a requisite and too long stopped-up toilet gag, poison that needs to be sucked-out from a below-the-belt dart strike, and more crack than I've seen at a refrigerator repairman convention (St. Louis, 1992, things may have changed since then but I am guessing not).

And of course, because it adds nothing to the plot, Donald Trump gets AIDS.

I knew what to expect but hoped that going in with such low expectations I might be surprised. Instead I was grossed out.

1 Honk

Once time Rochesterite and former local broadcast professional Phil Johnston penned back-to-back movies. "One is for my parents and kids to see," he said in a recent interview referring to last week’s ‘Zootopia,’ "and one is for my dirty-minded friends" he said of this week’s train wreck ‘The Brothers Grimsby.’ That pretty much sums things up.


Perhaps you know the former KTTC-er from one of these other two:

"Wreck-It Ralph" (2012)

John C. Reilly voiced Disney’s shunned video game villain but Johnston (with co-writer Jennifer Lee) put the words in his mouth in this popular Oscar-nominated family film.

"Cedar Rapids" (2011)

Johnston captured the Midwest vibe in this comedy that ranks among my favorites. Innocent Wisconsin insurance salesman Ed Helms finds himself on a weekend of debauchery in the title city with degenerate but ultimately redeemed John C. Reilly to mentor him on how to get the most out of the conference. "l got tiger scratches on my back."

What To Read Next
Get Local