A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Brothers Grimsby is an extremely crass spy comedy starring Mark Strong and Sacha Baron Cohen. As you might expect from the man behind Borat and Ali G, there's a lot of envelope-pushing, offensive content -- like men hiding in a female elephant's uterus as she's mounted repeatedly by male elephants who find their release inside her ... and all over them. And that's just one of the many raunchy, crude sequences involving bodily fluids and orifices (fireworks are inserted inside bums on more than one occasion, etc.). There are also frequent references to and jokes about sex, particularly oral sex, seduction, mating animals, and even HIV/AIDS; a woman's breasts are seen briefly, and there are other sex scenes, too. The movie's action leads to a high body count via gunshots, explosions, and more. Characters drink and smoke a ton, and there's extreme language in nearly every scene, with many uses of "f--k," "c--t," "s--t," "bitch," and more. All of that said, if you dig far below the boorish, gross-out humor, there's an underlying message about the importance of family.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY follows the long-separated Butcher brothers, whose lives took drastically different directions from the time they were young orphans. Sebastian (Mark Strong), who was adopted by a wealthy London couple, grows up to be a top MI6 field agent -- aka super spy/assassin -- while Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) stayed behind in working-class Grimsby to become a hard-drinking football-club-addicted father of 11. When Nobby's friend of a friend spots Sebastian's name on a charity gala's guest list, Nobby shows up and hugs Sebastian exactly at the moment he's trying to stop an assassination attempt. As a result of the blunder, Sebastian is accused of shooting the head of the World Health Organization and is branded a rogue agent. Tracked by MI6 assassins and the villainous syndicate he was trying to stop, Sebastian must now protect his brother as they try to stop the bad guys before getting killed.
Is it any good?
The occasionally funny (and always crass) gross-out humor of Baron Cohen's comedy pokes fun at the working classes and misses more than it hits with its puerile jokes. It wouldn't be a Baron Cohen movie if there weren't a few close-ups of male genitalia -- and in that regard, The Brothers Grimsby doesn't disappoint: You'll get plenty of junk shots, with Nobby forced to suck poison out of Sebastian's testicle, a cringe-inducing sequence taking place inside a female elephant's uterus while she's being mounted by male elephants with proportionately huge penises, and (of course) countless jokes about orifices, bodily fluids, and genital size. These jokes elicit nervous, awkward laughter at best because they last way too long ... and there's only so long you can laugh at men being sexually assaulted by elephants.
One of the comedy's more uncomfortable aspects is how often it makes fun of Nobby and his friends -- working-class Brits whose lives revolve around their local pub, their football team, and getting completely drunk. Rebel Wilson predictably co-stars as Nobby's girlfriend/the mother of his many children, while Isla Fisher (who's married to Baron Cohen) plays Sebastian's trusted, buttoned-up MI6 handler. Ultimately the comedy relies on the rapport between Baron Cohen and Strong, which has an admittedly odd-couple kind of charm, but there's just too much scatological stuff to sustain a film of even 83 minutes. Of course, audiences made up of predominantly young men will likely disagree.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Brothers Grimsby's overtly sexual and vulgar scenes. Are they funny? Why or why not? Who's the intended audience? Why do different people find different things funny?
Discuss the violence in the movie. Is it necessary to the story? Does it have as much impact as the crude humor?
Some have taken issue with the way the movie makes fun of England's poor, disenfranchised, and unemployed. What do you think? Does it make things worse that Baron Cohen himself has always been wealthy, even before he was a famous comedian?
How does the movie compare to Baron Cohen's other films? Do you think his characters are all caricatures?
- In theaters: March 11, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: June 21, 2016
- Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Penelope Cruz
- Director: Louis Leterrier
- Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong crude sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language, and some drug use
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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