reviewed by Marc Glassman
Larry Charles, director. Sacha Baron Cohen, co-script, co-story based on characters he created. Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen (Bruno), Gustaf Hammarsten (Lutz), Clifford Banagle (Diesel), Sting, Elton John, Chris Martin, Bono, Snoop Dogg, Paula Abdul, Ron Paul
Lovers of the outrageous will enjoy the antics of Sacha Baron Cohen in Bruno, his latest edgy comedy. Pushing the envelope once again, Cohen, the fabulous comic impersonator who enjoyed worldwide acclaim for Borat, has created set pieces that are side splittingly hilarious. You may not love it but a black baby Jesus on a cross, a talking penis and a gay wrestling scene staged in front of a crowd of rednecks is bound to provoke raucous laughter in a many a movie crowd.
But it’s unlikely that Cohen’s over-the-top gay character Bruno will draw the kind of fanatical support that his crazy Kazakh Borat or the ghetto rapping Ali G did. Frankly, Cohen has become too famous and it’s obvious that the celebrities and “dumb” Americans who provided the satirical fodder for Cohen’s previous antics are in on the joke. Now that too many people recognize Cohen, all that remains is a scatter shot assembly of jokes and some very amusing—or raunchy—visuals. Clearly, the shock of the first appearances of Ali G and Borat will never be repeated.
So who is Bruno? He’s a beautiful Austrian gay media boy with his own TV program in mittle-Europe who finds himself “schwartzlisted” after destroying a fashion show by rolling over costumes in his all-Velcro suit. Moving to Hollywood, he tries to create a “celeb” show but ruins it with his Euro-trash sensibility. (Though there are funny moments in his aborted American TV series, Cohen’s attempts to punk Paula Abdul and former US presidential candidate Ron Paul are clearly unsuccessful.) A second, even crazier, attempt by Bruno to introduce his adopted “black baby” named O.J. to a reality TV show audience of African-Americans also proves to be a disaster—though the results are undeniably funny. And a third foray into being a saviour in the Middle East—Bruno mistakes hummus for Hamas—is also doomed to failure.
Finally, he decides to cure himself of being gay by moving to the Deep South and meeting with the US military and reborn Christian ministers. This leads to the climatic (in more ways than one) scene when a wrestling scene turns into a gay romp in front of an outraged audience. Like the rest of the film, some Southern scenes provoke laughter but satirizing American right-wingers is old hat.
Where does that leave Cohen and Bruno? With a film that certainly provokes lots of yuks but not much sustaining power. This won’t be the hit that Borat was—which isn’t surprising—but Bruno might tank at the box-office. At best, it will be a moderate hit. And that’s a surprise since the last thing Cohen wants is moderation.