The Lowdown: Watching the feature film “Bruno” is somewhat like eating a whole bag of candy corn. There is a sugar rush high and momentary feeling of elation and giddiness, but all too soon you feel sick and crash. The experience is not awful and you come out no worse for the wear, but it’s not something you are likely to try again in the near future. Walking out of the theatre in a zombie-like trance from the sheer amount of material that was thrown at me from beginning to end, I couldn’t form a statement more coherent than “wow.” “Bruno” is neither a great movie nor a horrific one. I am sure it falls somewhere between good and meh, but the movie’s predominant characteristic is its sheer recklessness and audacity.If you have seen “Borat” (and by now who hasn’t?), then you get the basic gist of the plot. Sacha Baron Cohen once again immerses himself in the role of an outrageous foreigner coming to America to make it to the big time. Unlikely trials and tribulations prevent his easy ascent to success, but after several near death experiences, all is well. Both movies are slim when it comes to the plot and rely on Cohen’s character of the moment, his utter lack of self preservation and the ignorance of the American population at large. The formula worked spectacularly in “Borat,” but “Bruno” lacks the same punch and pizazz.
When it comes down to it, “Bruno” just isn’t that great a movie. The film exposes some new cultural biases and delves much deeper into the prejudice against homosexuality, but after the “Borat” experience, Cohen has little left in his arsenal to shock us with. Oh yes, he manages to get his subjects/prey to fully embarrass themselves, but we have seen all these shenanigans before and we have seen them done better. That being said, Cohen must be commended for an excellent performance. He once again totally transforms himself into the character and spares himself no physical pain. It is truly spectacular/awful to watch him throw himself into situations where he is bound to be pummeled. A certain scene at a swingers party where he is whipped by an angry naked woman comes to mind. Bruno is more likable than Borat, and bizarrely enough, more relatable. He is obviously a complete caricature, but his heart and enthusiasm are surprisingly compelling. It’s hard not to love this hapless and bumbling Austrian wannabe.
The Verdict: To be fair, the film does have its moments. Bruno is at his best on the international scene where his “making fun of Americans” routine is less tried and goes to lengths I doubt any comedian has gone to before. Highlights include Bruno brokering peace in the Middle East by sitting down senior Israeli and Palestinian officials. After a predictable confusion between hummus and Hamas we see the brilliance of an anonymous Cohen. Bruno getting a sit down interview with a terrorist as he tries to convince the terrorist to kidnap him is more of a shocker than a knee slapper, but what a shock it is. The Velcro suit at Milan fashion week provides the perfect combination of hilarious and deranged and a poor former presidential candidate gets rough treatment as Bruno attempts to seduce him and make a sex tape with him, but he is a fairly good sport all things considered.
Overall, however, the film goes nowhere and makes no point. It lamely pokes fun at the establishment, but in such a half-hearted way I almost wish it hadn’t even bothered. It’s well worth seeing the film to understand what all the hubbub is about and to get a few laughs, but do not expect the creativity and intellectual edge we usually see from Sacha Baron Cohen.