Sunday, February 12, 2017

Penis Jokes

The Brothers Grimsby (2016): written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston, and Peter Baynham; directed by Louis Leterrier; starring Sacha Baron Cohen (Nobby), Rebel Wilson (Dawn), Mark Strong (Sebastian), and Isla Fisher (Jodie): A barbaric yawp of a comedy had me laughing at points and cringing at others. Though the cringing was mostly done during the scenes of mawkish sentimentality that occur periodically, parodies I assume of the mawkish sentimentality of many action movies. 

Sacha Baron Cohen takes aim at the British class system and action movies, roughly in that order. He's a welfare yob from infamously depressed Grimsby (a real city); Mark Strong is his long-vanished brother, a James Bond-type superspy. They team up to save the world from a nefarious scheme that will reach fruition at the (never-named because of copyright reasons) World Cup final. You know this is an unrealistic movie because England is playing in that final!

The grotesque comes hard and fast (that's what she said!) and without modulation or regret. Director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Now You See Me) doesn't have the chops to accentuate the comedy at all times, which means that stretches of the movie play like the action movies it is parodying. Cohen manages a weird, almost Rabelaisian sweetness at times -- Nobby is a knob and a yob, but he loves his family and he's capable of self-sacrifice. Mark Strong plays off Cohen well as a straight man; more importantly, he's cinematically plausible as a superspy action hero. He's like a more self-aware Jason Statham. 

I laughed a lot, so I guess I liked it. The elephant scene alone should really have nabbed this movie a Make-up Oscar nomination. Recommended.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016): written by Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone; directed by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone; starring Andy Samberg (Conner), Jorma Taccone (Owen), Akiva Schaffer (Lawrence), Sarah Silverman (Paula), and Tim Meadows (Harry): The Lonely Island boys make a pop mockumentary (mock popumentary?) about a gormless pop-rap group and its even more gormless frontman (Andy Samberg). 

As with Lonely Island's song and video parodies, it's too sweet to be blistering satire. In the Classics game, they'd probably call this Horatian. Nonetheless, while certain things wear out their welcome, there are a lot of laughs here, many of them riffing on real-world occurrences that include U2 releasing an album on all the iPhones in the world and a lot of real-world songs and videos by people that include Macklemore and One Direction. 

It's no This is Spinal Tap -- what is? -- but it's a mostly fun 90 minutes with a lot of laugh-out loud moments in the songs and the scenes. There's also something refreshingly weird in a scene involving Samberg reluctantly signing a fan's penis. Recommended.

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