REVIEW: ‘Bruno’

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Grade: C+

It’s always a fun watching a theatre full of people wriggle in their seats because a film makes them so uncomfortable. They lower in their chairs, they attempt to hide their faces, and they cry out with many “ohs” and “ewws” as the film goes on. Such was the reaction at the screening of Bruno, the latest mockumentary from the mind of Sacha Baron Cohen.

The follow-up to the 2006 film Borat, Bruno follows the exact same formula, but is lacking the freshness and subtlety of its predecessor. It’s gloriously offensive, and it sustains laughs remarkably well for a film that is basically a drawn-out penis joke. However, this time around a lot of the jokes fell flat, and despite a few moments of brilliance, a lot of the scenarios start and end too quickly, lacking a grand punch line.

This time around Sacha Baron Cohen sports a highlighted hair-do, shaved body, and ridiculously “European” clothes to become Bruno, a gay, Austrian fashion reporter and host of the television show “Funkyzeidt.” After unintentionally disrupting a huge fashion event, he gets black-listed, is fired from his show, and even his pygmy boyfriend dumps him. As he reaches his low-point he decides to come to America and try his hand at becoming a real celebrity. He packs up his many suitcases and he and his bumbling assistant Lutz embark for Hollywood.

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Various brief and hilarious scenarios in Hollywood occur in Bruno’s attempt to achieve fame including an interview with Paula Abdul, an attempt to make world peace, and a celebrity gossip/weiner-swinging television pilot – all of which fail miserably. At the lowest of his low, Bruno has an epiphany as he stumbles across the true reason he hasn’t made it in Hollywood.

Rather than working as a straight-forward narrative, the film works more like sketch comedy – a collection of semi-related scenes. One of the brilliant moments comes when Bruno is being trained to defend himself against dildo-toting homosexual attackers. By far the best part of the film comes in its pre-finale, a cage match fight that turns into a gay make out session and a near-death experience for Cohen and his co-star Gustaf Hammarsten.

The character Bruno was a little bit too over-the-top, which heavily affected his interactions with real people. I felt like most of the scenarios that could have been truly great, were ruined because the “victims” figured out they were being played too soon. These include his interaction with Congressman Ron Paul, an attempted interview with Paula Abdul, and a training session with a National Guard unit. It felt like he went into every scene with the offensive notches up to 10 and had nowhere to go from there.

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Once again Cohen manages to catch people off-guard and reveal a darker side of Americans. However, this time around the results are not exactly shocking. Of course a group of Southern back woods hunters are going to be uncomfortable around a nude man hitting on them. Naturally, people are going to be offended by a gratuitous swinging penis at the end of a weekly television show.

The film did not do as much to expose the American prejudice against homosexuals as much as Borat exposed hidden racism and sexism. What Bruno did a better job at exposing was the artificiality of celebrity. He jabs at the Hollywood elite by mimicking a lot of their attention-grabbing techniques like adopting an African baby, championing a popular “cause,” and creating a persona that is completely different from who he “really is.” It makes you question the authenticity of many of the celebrities that constantly inhabit the front page news.

Many reports surfaced in the time leading up to the release about the movie needing to be edited for many reasons. For one, it needed to be able to pass with an R-rating. Another reason was that some segments were deemed offensive to the gay community. And most recently a scene with a few Michael Jackson jokes were pulled, out of sensitivity to his fans. The result was a film that did not feel entirely whole leading up to an ending that did not round everything out.

Don’t get me wrong, the film is funny. It’s hilarious. That’s what kept it from a lower grade. However, expect this to be the last film of this type from Sacha Baron Cohen as I doubt he will be able to go on without being recognized, no matter how good of a character actor he is.

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  • it could have gotten a b-

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