Movie Title: Brüno (2009)
Sacha Baron Cohen is back in his second profanely funny and audaciously conniving creation since Borat. It’s called Brüno. If you dig Baron Cohen’s comedic genius, then Brüno may well be worth the view. Though it lacks the quality and originality of its forerunner, it sports a satisfying level of humor that Baron Cohen fans crave.
The Jewish/English comedian, who became famous for – among other things – his HBO comedy series Da Ali G Show (2000), burst into bigger popularity for American audiences with his film Ali G Indahouse (2002). Later, it was Baron Cohen as anti-Semitic reporter Borat going after Pamela Anderson in 2007’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The film won awards, including Best Actor and Best International Comedy.
Baron Cohen is a satirist, and a good one at that. In Brüno, the vacuously superficial and notoriously lame-brained fashion industry followers are under heavy attack. In Borat, it was the rightwing that was being had. Here again in Brüno, the anti-gay religious right is not going to get a pass.
Baron Cohen’s alter ego known as Brüno is an Austrian ex-talk show host who specializes in discussing hot “issues” of the day. Gayer than a debutant, he also loves hot guys—and the widely publicized celebrity-style adoration of underprivileged children. But he adopts his children from Africa by trading in iPods and MacBooks for them. He idolizes big American movie stars and wants to contribute in as big of ways as they do. Having failed in his quest for sustained stardom overseas, he’s come to America, with his loudly gay clothing styles and tighter-than-a-vice-grip pants.
Baron Cohen has a huge melting pot to sift through in America. We’re not one big happy party over here. That alone makes it a smart move to lash out at various backward segments of our population. But what is more backwards than the people he attacks is Baron Cohen pulling off stunts by having the character of Brüno run into walls. That’s lame and that’s beneath him. What is likewise beneath him is the predictable plot that runs along the same lines as Borat. The story of Brüno is largely a modified version of the Borat storyline, but with more up-close and senseless male nudity. Borat is the better movie of the two by some margin.
And Brüno is less likable than Borat in that he dances on the outer fringes of normalcy, whereas Borat is just backwards and third-world, outrageously disconnected from civilization. You expected someone to come along and attack the fashion industry as Brüno did, but Mike Myers’ “Dieter” character from “Sprockets” on Saturday Night Live beat him to it. It was enough. The character of Brüno has limited comedic potential, at least for now. I do hope the future has ample room for parodies of the current Europeanized generation of wannabe-gay dudes and spike-haired little men who worship their iPhones. I’d like that very much.
The beauty of a film like Brüno, however, is that the plot can never be too important. You watch Brüno for the same reason you watched Borat—for near-painful shock value. You want to see unsuspecting dufuses get publicly smeared for your pleasure. You secretly want to gasp and cover your mouth as your eyes widen at the depraved depths to which Baron Cohen will sink to foster a laugh. It doesn’t matter if it’s séance sex with a deceased member of the band Milli Vanilli in front a psychic who knows he’s full of shit, or a cage match make-out scene between two guys in front of a thousand gay-haters. That’s Brüno and it’s okay to like him. You don’t have to hide it. Brüno would say the same.
Grade: C- (2 stars)
Summation: An Austrian ex-television host goes to L.A. to make it big as a gay movie star.
Director: Larry Charles
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen “Brüno,” Gustaf Hammarsten “Lutz,” Clifford Bañagale “Diesel,” Chibundu Orukwowu “O.J.” Josh Meyers “Kookus”