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Movie Review - 'Brüno'


Starring Sacha Baron Cohen
Directed by Larry Charles
Rated R

brunoposter.jpg In Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen coded a pointed finger at racism behind a cascade of laughs. Whether or not you completely got the humor or the message, it still managed to be funny. His follow-up, the similarly targeted Brüno gets a lot of big laughs, too, or maybe they just seem that way because of the silence that surrounds them.

The comparisons to Borat will end here. Some people will want to know how it stacks up, the answer is that it's not as good or as insightful as Borat, and a lot more desperate for your attention.

Cohen is less a comedian than a vulgarian and a sociologist, at least when he's in one of his Ali G Show characters. There are no real jokes, just a guy working without a net, which is always uncomfortable to watch. Beneath the humor, though, Cohen does explore and expose bigotry and meanness, but even those are only layers of the human nature, and that's what he's really after.

Brüno is a gay Austrian fashion reporter. His show is the most influential fashion program in the German-speaking world...outside of Germany. When he's fired for crashing Fasion Week in Milan - literally - Brüno sets out for Los Angeles to become a star. The California scenes don't work very well; what's funny about an eccentric homosexual in L.A.? Cohen tries hard, but he doesn't always cross the finish line in the first chapter of his excursion.

The film has better luck in the Middle East (or Middle Earth as he calls it), although his homosexuality is a complete non-factor. Brüno attempts to broker peace with Hammas and Israel, and believing he can become famous if he's kidnapped by radical Muslims, insults Osama bin Laden during an interview with one of the top terrorists in Lebanon.

It should be pointed out that Cohen's interviews are real. We think. How it's conceivable that Paula Abdul gets suckered by this act a couple of years after Borat is beyond me, even for Abdul. The terrorist is real. The representatives from Israel and Palestine are real. The swingers party Brüno attends to turn himself straight (for professional reasons, of course) is definitely real.

Could some of it be staged? A lot of the film certainly feels that way, but primarily it's because Cohen labors to keep a narrative going. More accurately, he has several narratives. Brüno wants to host a TV show, Brüno adopts an African baby, Brüno wants to become straight, but the film is partially undone by the unnecessary structure, and ends with a disastrous sketch that left the audience I saw this with cheering for less.

Cohen is still in his element as Brüno, and he's terribly convincing, as well. There are parts of every one of his practical jokes that pulls their weight, but the impact is a little muted by the herky jerky nature of the plot.

His perceptions about homophobia aren't as accurate as he likely would have hoped. He makes a villain out of former Presidential candidate Ron Paul, but has to go far out of his way to elicit the response. Other victims don't notice or care that Brüno is gay, and it seems that the concept is beaten to death even though it's not really proven until the last encounter, for which Cohen travels to Arkansas.

On the whole, Brüno is very funny when it's funny at all. But when it's not funny...

Reader Comments (4)

Well, I always thought that Brüno was the least interesting of Baron-Cohens characters.

I watched the Ali G show from the start on English television and the first series was really funny, when nobody knew who he was. As the series went "viral" he had to invent Borat to keep spoofing in Britain. Borat was absolutely hilarious because he was designed to trigger all sorts of prejudices at the same time: culture, religion, class, sexuality etc, in brief xenophobia.

Bruno works extensively with homofobia which makes him all the more limited. Still for every show, Baron-Cohen is limiting his options as he is becoming a household name world-wide.

Still his climax, if the expression is allowed, was Borat during Da Ali G Show.

Friday, July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLengthy Johnson

I saw Bruno at the premier last night in Tempe, and I was too busy laughing to catch most of the dialog. The plot, which resembled that of Borat's, while a little pointless, was still held together by some of the best acting of recent years.

His dedication to his characters is unparalleled, I mean come on, who would willingly sit in a room with a terrorist leader in Lebanon, far away from the protection of our democracy, and act openly flamboyant while calling Osama Bin Laden a "dirty wizard" or "a homeless santa clause"?

I understand where people will think this film is just another excuse to get attention, cheap laughs, and controversy, but his characters have more meaning behind them than just a puppet and its master. His craft is acting, and he is superb at it, in whatever role he chooses. He's not only trying to make a point about society, he's trying to show off his ability to become a completely different person completely. He's polishing his shoes for the big show, in my opinion.

I know that Bruno will be the end of his narrative films, and I feel a kind of regret that I will never get to see the blooming of his genius again, like in Da Ali G Show and Borat, but now that he has burnt out his own characters, he can really only take other peoples characters and make them his own. I'm excited to see what will come of him, as he stands high on my list as one of the greatest actors of our generation. Method acting at its greatest!

Daniel Day Lewis stands at number 1.

Friday, July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Good review

Sacha Baron Cohen was so hilarious in Borat so I was pretty excited to see Bruno, but man this movie was such a disappointment. The character Bruno himself is a funny guy and all the publicity stunts, viral marketing, etc. was amazing. It really showed how outrageous Bruno really is. However what he actually did with the movie itself was less than amazing.

I wrote a full review as well at

Friday, July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

This looks like a hack movie from ali G... MaximMovie

Saturday, July 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaximMovie

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