Vassup! I’m Doüglas :) At length, this movie borders on being sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-Christian, Nazi, xenophobic and sexually deviant. In short, this movie is absolutely hilarious.
After the run away hit that was Borat Sasha Baron Cohen returns with another undercover brother to exploit and unnerve all who come in contact with him. If you’ve seen Borat then you know exactly what you’re in for, uncomfortable silences and dangerous horseplay, pushing the buttons of not only the average Joe but celebrity as well. Cohen branches out geographically in Brüno covering not only America but parts of the Middle East and Africa. Unfortunately he doesn’t travel as many miles trying to make this a wholly original journey but rather takes the Borat blueprint and adds some lapels, a dash of colour and injection of balls out (at times literally) in your face gay pride.
Brüno was (like Borat) originally a sketch character on The Paramount Comedy Chanel and Da Ali G Show who has been developed for the big screen following the retirement of Cohen’s Ali G persona and the subsequent success of the Borat movie. Joining Brüno on the big screen we find the ‘gay fashonista’ as host of the show Funkyzeit mit Brüno (Funkytime with Brüno) parading around Milan Fashion Week causing mayhem, eventually getting kicked out and blacklisted within the fashion world. This leads him to be fired from the show and dumped by his diminutive but sexually diverse boyfriend plunging Brüno into a depression which prompts his move to LA and his search for fame and fortune.
Although the back-story and personal drive behind this characters motives grossly differ from his Kazakhstani spiritual brother from this point on, as hard as you may be laughing you’ll be continually haunted by a certain deja vu while watching Brüno on his vanity driven search for super stardom. The general set up and “plot” closely mirror the structure in Borat, save a few minor jogs across the globe, to the point where Cohen is almost parodying scenes from his own movie (see Brüno breaking down in the street crying out over his broken heart and seeming loss of all hope). While this does remove a layer of gloss it doesn’t do enough to put you off, although there is plenty else that might!
Brüno is most certainly NOT for everyone. You require a certain moral flexabilty to enjoy some of the jokes here. Part of Cohens genius in Borat was the way he worked on so many levels. You could enjoy the film just for the brasen bravery his character shows in offending the deepest core values of his would be interviewees, or the bottom barrel laughes derived from naked men fighting, cock gags and sexual references. Under all this though was the subtly in his ability to make people expose the most derogetory prejeduces without even realising what they are saying never mind the fact they are saying it on film. Some people find him grossy offensive, and they are partly right. Others think he is an understated genius who eeks out the traits most societies like to pretend no longer exist in the ways they once did. Personally I find Cohen and his array of characters an intreging mix of the two. There are some obvious jokes in here that really just hit the cheap laugh as well as the more considered tactical comedy strikes, but with Brüno he too often goes overboard with outrageous behaviour that less teethes out his targets flaws but give them a giant bullseye at which to fly as their biggest fears come to life in front of them.
Part of this is down to the character, Brüno himself is loud, more flamboyantly gay than Graham Norton on a night out with Chris Crocker and pulls no punches when referencing his likes and hobbies (“So hypothetically according to you (Pastor) I can admire a mans penis in the shower but the moment I put it in my mouth some sort of line has been crossed?”). He couldn’t be done any other way but it leads to this film feel staged in more places than in Borat. That’s not to say the film feels fake, there are still plenty of situations that are bang on and you can feel the tension dripping off the screen to the point where even you are uncomfortable (just wait until the scene where Brüno goes camping to feel yourself tense up) as well as some scenes that are flat out dangerous for the actor to be in (such as treating drunken amped up Southerners to an Ultimate fight they will never forget). In one scene, Cohen actually sits across from the leader of an influential ‘terrorist’ group and flat out insults him. Cagey stuff; but it’s all part of what makes Brüno ultimately a success. For every scene that feels familiar, there is one you break into a sweat from laughing so hard. For every scene he goes over the top, there is one where he grates the tension so finely you are literally at bursting point wondering what his ‘victim’ will do next.
The film ends in what I felt was a fitting swansong for Cohen. It sums up both his great success but impending failure. His characters are works of art, but are now over exposed. He can still trick many a Joe public, but celebrities are not just willing, but desperate to share in the humour and self-deprication. It has been reported that one segmet of film had to be stopped when an army cadet familiar with Borat recognised the camoflagued comedian and upon informing his superiors blew the gig. This is ultimately Sacha Baron Cohen’s problem, he is now a victim of his own success.
Two global movies with massive press exposure from every angle both praising and damning him mean he will find it almost impossible to continue in his character based ruses. This could be a blessing in disguise as he is obviously a vastly talented, very smart and funny man so forcing him into something new could provide us with some fresh material that departs from the now familiar feeling episodic nature of these features. Brüno should be viewed with this in mind, as though you might feel you’ve seen it before, you might not get to see it again, so enjoy it while you can. The idea has run its course now, and you can tell it wont stretch much further. This movie doesn’t sit as well as Borat did and feels much more like just a collection of hilarious encouters strung together into a makeshift story. In 2006 the film was reported to be under the title ‘Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt’ and while the final edit isn’t quite as epic, it is still everything it needs to be.