Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest shock comedy Bruno is a nasty, tired and pointless retread of the gifted comedian’s previous work.
Cohen’s reputation as a fearless entertainer is undeniable. Ever since Da Ali G Show, Cohen has displayed a talent for disregarding the taboos of modern society and pushing the limits of acceptable social behaviour, to the cheers of eager viewers who lap up the carnage left in his wake.
Bruno is not different, and therein is the problem: Once again we have Cohen in covert character inciting reactions from varied members of the public. Once again director Larry Charles is on hand to capture Cohen’s antics with his “guerrilla” style of filmmaking. And, once gain the viewer is expected to squirm and laugh at the absurdity of it all. The only problem is, Cohen and Charles have already blown their load with Borat; all that is present is sloppy seconds.
Bruno is the third and last original creation from Cohen’s famed Da Ali G Show. An openly gay and ultra flamboyant fashion host of Austria’s "Funkyzeit Mit Bruno", the iconic presenter is fired from the show after crashing Milan’s fashion week in a brilliantly executed and captured stunt.
On the outs in his native country, Bruno decides to take his dream of becoming “the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler” to America. What follows is a long series of television sketches, glued together by a weak sub-plot involving the love story between Bruno and his infatuated assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammerstan).
At 83 min. Cohen and Charles spend no time getting into their shtick, as Hollywood celebs –from the minor to the major – are either confronted or exploited into participating in Cohen’s antics.
Through a Hollywood agent, Cohen manages to find work as an extra on television show Medium, disrupting each take to the chagrin of regular cast member Miguel Sandoval. Bruno then moves on to familiar territory as a host of an entertainment variety show, with first guest Paula Abdul urged to sit on Mexican labourers posing as furniture. Later a presentation of Bruno’s new show to a CBS executive hits a low point, with Cohen’s penis making its debut in full view, full screen, and full swing. How this film received a measly MA rating is stupefying.
Soon the decadent turns into the surreal, as Cohen tries to entrap libertarian congressman Ron Paul in an amateur sex tape, and then treks to the middle east where he hopes to find fame by securing peace between the Israelis and Palestinian’s, confusing hummus for Hamas while doing so. The adoption of an African baby follows, with Bruno proclaiming to a shocked faux talk back TV audience that his little “gayby” is quite the dick magnet.
It is only when Bruno hits the conservative end of America does the film start to pick up a bit. How could it not be funny watching Cohen and his gimp approach members of the Westboro Baptist Church while dressed in full S&M garb? But moments like these are too few, too short, and too easy.
A major controversy surrounding Bruno is its depiction of homosexuality, and whether it promotes or criticizes homophobia. From this view it ends up doing neither, but it sure does have a go at attempting the later. Problem is, Cohen’s efforts to elicit homophobia –sneaking into a man’s tent at 3 in the morning while in the buff; coming on to an clearly disinterested man mid-coitus at a hetero swingers party – crosses a line and makes him look like quite the asshole.
And unlike Borat, not a very funny one at that.