Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen) has just been in bed making sweet love to his girlfriend Dawn (Rebel Wilson) and after achieving satisfaction, he tells the shop assistant that the mattress is ideal and he'll buy it. Taking it home on the bus, he passes through various sights on his trip through his hometown of Grimsby, a lower-class area of the country where he has nine kids to feed, so feels lucky the benefits system is so accommodating, it saves him getting a job so he can concentrate on his real love: football. And drinking. But despite this level of contentment with life, there remains something missing... whatever happened to his brother Sebastian (Mark Strong), who he was separated from as a child?
It's safe to say Grimsby didn't get the best of receptions when it was initially released, as critics and public alike considered it the nadir of bad taste comedy as promoted by its creator and star, Sacha Baron Cohen. It didn't matter that in many territories it was edited to tone down its wilder excesses, it seemed being outrageous was in its blood and not much could be done to improve matters, so its full-strength version was eventually released on disc and, as was the way with these things, Cohen's remaining fans turned it into a cult movie. Something about that uncompromising nature in the pursuit of shocking its audience into laughter was evidently tickling a few funny bones across the globe.
Nevertheless, such was that opprobrium greeting what was the most basic of parody ideas, the shooting fish in a barrel quality of the James Bond spoof, a subgenre that had been around for decades and was so ingrained in the pop culture that it showed no signs of letting up, that Grimsby continues to suffer a terrible reputation, either because it insulted the sort of people who didn't have much of a chance to stand up for themselves ordinarily in the media, or because it was celebrating those self-same folks and elevating the sort of scrounging, violent, indiscriminately breeding low level criminal who Nobby represented to hero status, which was not on either in the minds of the tastemakers.
On actually watching this, it was not quite either of those things, and as it could not be both you had to work out where it stood. This was probably more on the hero angle than the villain, but the jokes were fairly evenly spread: Nobby is a moron, but he doesn't have a mean spirit, he's not particularly the sort of football hooligan who would populate any number of straight to DVD cheapo dramas designed for the post-pub brigade, though you could argue they were the ideal audience for the relentlessly stupid humour. Yet somehow Cohen and his co-writers Phil Johnston and Peter Baynham came across as men on a mission to up the ante and make gags that would have the weak of constitution, well, gagging: mention the elephant scene and anyone who had seen this would either laugh cryptically in recognition or briefly develop a thousand-yard stare.
The plot was barely there in a film that lasted about an hour and a quarter before the credits appeared, as simple as it needed to be. Essentially a town mouse/country mouse yarn, Nobby finds his brother as an MI6 spy, one of those super-efficient Bond sorts, whose latest mission is sabotaged when Nobby introduces himself at the worst possible moment and makes it look as if Sebastian has assassinated the head of the World Health Organisation. He was trying to save Penélope Cruz, an activist, but now must go undercover to ensure his survival, and Nobby offers him a roof over his head while he regroups. Cue scenes where the brothers go on fresh missions, first to South Africa and then to Chile where a top football championship is the centre of a dastardly scheme to spread a virulent disease across the world, with a bunch of guest stars, not the obvious ones either, peppering the screen in between the jokes about sucking scrotums or unblocking toilets. The weirdest aspect was how affectionate it was, they really liked Nobby and his daft, underachieving family and pals. But was it funny? If you had tolerance for the ultimate in idiotic humour, you're damn right it was. Music by David Buckley and Erran Baron Cohen.