Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to Borat tries hard to be an extreme exaggeration of every gay stereotype imaginable. Bruno is an entertaining collage of pranks, but it feels more like the weak-wristed copycat of Borat.
At the Toronto press screening for Bruno, the latest film from guerrilla satirist Sacha Baron Cohen, a man in the theatre was so disgusted with the film he got up and walked out 30 minutes into the movie. Before exiting, he turned and faced the audience and yelled, "You're all stupid for watching this crap!" He stormed off, apparently angered by a few full-frontal nude scenes that slaps this flick with an R-rating.
The walkout guy is only half-right. We're not stupid for watching this crap, we're curious. We want to see a train wreck. Ever since Cohen gave us Borat, we can't wait to rubber-neck the next fiasco bound to embarrass high-profile celebs and politicians. Bruno delivers on that front, allowing us to see the tight-lipped conservatives squirm under the flirty gaze of Cohen's outrageously gay character.
The plot for Bruno is thinner than a Speedo: Bruno is a talk-show host in Austria whose star wattage suddenly disappears after a few mishaps. He wants to travel to America to seek celeb status once again (sound familiar?) and interview big stars such as Paula Abdul. In fact, he does sit down with the American Idol judge, but things fall apart when he forces Mexicans to act as chairs and tables for his invited guest.
This quasi-documentary goes to extreme lengths to elicit laughs. Bruno is such a gross exaggeration it's easy to just let go and enjoy his silly antics. Similar to why prank shows like Punk'd are popular, we are entertained by clueless people who aren't in on the joke. For example, the looks he gets from Americans in an airport when Bruno picks up his black baby from the luggage carousel can't be accurately summed up.
Courtesy Universal Pictures
The character Bruno and his "adopted" child
The more uncomfortable Bruno makes people, the more he draws attention to their homophobia. Focus groups watching Bruno's proposed talk show roll their eyes at his bare-bum shakes, at the aforementioned full-frontal nudity. Former presidential hopeful Ron Paul gets the Bruno treatment, as the scantily dressed character shimmies and dances in a hotel room in front of Paul, eventually pissing off the politician so deeply he storms out the door and mutters something about "queers." But this scene, like many others, ends too quickly for the audience to fully appreciate the scope of the stunt.
Directed by Larry Charles, who helmed Borat and previously directed and wrote for Seinfeld, Bruno skewers the American South with a story arc that feels forced: Bruno believes that if he's going to be accepted into Hollywood's high ranks, he needs to go straight. So he enlists in several macho activities, such as hunting, military training and joining a swinger's club. The expected jokes and audacious scenes hit their mark, but it's easy target practice: of course the Southern states will be intolerant towards flamboyant homosexuality. Where's the challenge in filming hunters grimacing at Sex in the City anecdotes?
Borat is a character at the heart of the film Borat, which follows the character as he travels across US
The humour in Bruno is sophmoric, much like Borat. You'll get your decade's worth of butt bleaching and dildo gags, including some man-on-man action hinted at in trailers. There's some great payoff in some of these scenes, but it all feels like a mess at times. To fans of the Ali G Show, where the Bruno character was born, the film resembles a collage of best-of outtakes. In fact, the most memorable scenes don't revolve around anal sex or fashion show accidents; there's something strangely engrossing when an uncomfortable scene stretches into odd silence, Bruno simply staring at his interview subject for ten seconds, waiting for something that never happens.
And for a true I-can't-believe-they-said-that laugh, Bruno talks to the most vapid public relation specialists ever filmed on camera. Their mindless discussion on charities Bruno should champion is too hilarious to spoil.
The majority of Bruno is fun, but all the pre-release hype suggested this film could do more than just make testicle jokes. It could arrive on our doorstep just as gay rights issues gain momentum in U.S. and abroad. It could spotlight the homophobia rampant in various cultures, and suggest how difficult it can be to create a truly discrimination-free society.
Instead, Bruno feels more like Borat 2 than its own movie. Even though the film's tagline suggested Borat "was so 2006", a more apt tagline should read "All of Sacha Baron Cohen's characters are so 2006."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com