Saturday, July 11, 2009


Some comedians will do anything for a laugh. Sasha Baron Cohen has already proven his penchant for getting laughs in his previous improvisational mockumentary farce “Borat.” “Borat” (2006) consisted largely of gross-out jokes aimed at exposing racism and religious hypocrisy done guerrilla “Candid Camera” style on clueless, unsuspecting rubes. Cohen repeats the “Borat” formula in “Bruno.” If you thought “Borat” constituted the nadir of bad taste, nothing in “Borat,” including the nude wrestling match between two guys, can compete with the smutty jokes, outrageous sight gags, and flagrant display of genitals in “Bruno.” Indeed, “Bruno” (* out of ****) attacks homophobic rednecks, parochially minded prudes, and nincompoops desperately seeking their 15 minutes of fame in the ubiquitously mediated society. Anybody who doesn’t like to laugh at jokes that are liable to offend them shouldn’t see “Bruno.” Watching “Bruno” is the equivalent of having your friends make a YouTube video of you sticking your finger down your throat to see how far down you can get it before your hurl. Another way to describe “Bruno” would be to think of the last really awful traffic accident that you went out of your way to stare at because everybody else was gawking at it.

Calling Bruno (Cambridge native Sasha Baron Cohen of HBO’s “Da Ali G Show”) conspicuously gay qualifies as a hopeless understatement. Bruno cavorts about in clownishly obvious costumes that leave little to the imagination and takes his gay masquerade to incendiary levels of idiocy. Added to that he utters every word in a falsetto voice that nobody in their right mind would attempt without feeling self-conscious. The thought that Cohen could be taking swipes at Gay Liberation isn’t that difficult to fathom considering the subject matter of “Bruno.” Indeed, Bruno could have stepped off a spaceship from another galaxy with his uber-queer performance that alienates everybody except the most feeble-minded. While Cohen’s cretinous Kazakhstani journalist in “Borat” amounted to a somewhat sympathetic character, nothing about Bruno is remotely sympathetic. At the outset, Bruno stars in a European television program entitled "Funkyzeit." He has to leave his native Austria after he disgraces himself at a fashion show in Milan when he shows up dressed in an all-Velcro outfit. Predictably, every place Bruno turns, he attaches himself to curtains, backdrops, and models and then stumbles out onto the stage in front of the crowd. Afterward, Bruno decides to fly to Los Angeles and to become "the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler."

Bruno takes a stab at producing a reality show called “A-List Celebrity Max-Out mit BrĂ¼no” where he interviews luminaries. He invites Paula Abdul to a posh house where Mexicans on their knees and elbows to act as furniture. Abdul looks around suspiciously at the live-action furniture, and she isn’t quite sure what to make it. Bruno invites her to have bite to eat and Abdul decides to exit when Bruno tries to serve her sushi from the body of a naked Mexican. Later, Bruno tries to ambush Harrison Ford for an interview. Yes, the guy actually looks just like Harrison Ford. Ford doesn’t take long to let Bruno know where to get off. Afterward, Bruno’s agent arranges for a focus group to evaluate his show. During the presentation, Bruno twirls his genitals like a cheerleader and the expressions that he elicits from the focus group are horrifying. Predictably, Bruno cannot imagine why they are so repulsed by his program. Later, cornering the recent libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul in a bedroom, Bruno begins to disrobe. The witless Paul realizes his error and exits in a heartbeat. Eventually, Bruno decides that the only way that he can scale the summits of superstardom is to straighten himself out. He visits a minister in Alabama who tries to help Bruno renounce his homosexuality. Along the way, Bruno visits a karate studio where he learns methods of defending himself from gays who might be stalking him. The karate instructor is either the greatest actor in the world or he was in on the joke because he looks genuinely convinced that Bruno is deathly afraid of homosexuals. Finally, at a cage fight in Arkansas, Bruno masquerades as a heterosexual fight promoter inciting brain-dead rednecks for forthcoming fights until he shocks them with a gay love making scene that devastated the entire crowd.

Director Larry Charles, who knows a thing or two about embarrassing people in public, helmed Cohen’s earlier film “Borat” as well as Bill Mahler’s “Religulous.” The biggest problem with “Bruno” is that you know some of the scenes had to have been staged with the participants in on the joke. Indeed, in this respect, because it is so obscene, “Bruno” must have been worked out ahead of time. The most clueless of the clueless is Bruno who never realizes how out-of-place that he is around ordinary, everyday people. Reportedly, Universal Studios deleted a scene with La Toya Jackson where Bruno tried to obtain Michael Jackson’s phone number. Nobody can say that Sasha Baron Cohen lacks nerve, because it takes a lot of nerve for him to serve up some of the sights that appear in this 82-minute mishmash. The karate scene is the best that “Bruno” has to offer. The scenes with the religious figures are far too cruel. Mind you, a lot of what transpires in “Bruno” is deliberately mean-spirited. Not even stupid people deserve the treatment that Cohen gives them. Believe me, nothing you’ve ever seen will prepare you for the sights in the R-rated “Bruno.”

No comments: