Release Date: July 10th, 2009 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Larry Charles Actors: Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten, Josh Meyers, Robert Huerta, Gilbert Rosales
ith “Borat,” Sacha Baron Cohen proved he had mastered reactionary comedy. With “Bruno,” he once again succeeds in finding humor in the often shocked reactions of his unsuspecting subjects – and perhaps even outdoes his previous effort in the realms of hilarious vulgarities and jaw-dropping offensiveness. But buried beneath the layers of obscenities, the innovative comic reveals an astute commentary on society that is just as appalling as the explicit images sprawled across the screen – though it’s likely the outrageous visuals will stay with viewers for much longer.
Exiled from the fashion world after an embarrassing mishap at a prestigious show, effeminate Austrian TV host Bruno (Sacha Baron Cohen) decides to travel to Los Angeles to become a famous movie star. But the road to fame and fortune is paved with adversity. The fledgling actor is forced to combat rejection, prejudice, negative focus group responses, outraged talk show audiences, military training, gay converters, and his own mixed feelings for his personal assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten).
This second outing of in-your-face raunchiness is less unexpected as it is simply extreme. The stunts are mostly the same as in “Borat,” utilizing a decidedly different host, with familiarly stunned, mortified, and enraged victims. The nudity is still horrifyingly shameful, but gets the laughs nonetheless. Cohen’s ideas seem to push the limits more than any other R-rated comedy out there; it may not be appealing, but at least it’s a differentiating factor. No one else bulldozes the boundaries of decency this much, and reasonable originality resides in that effort.
“Bruno,” like “Borat,” raises the question as to how much of this seemingly improvised material is staged versus genuinely spontaneous. How controlled is the environment and how much has editing altered the real reactions of the naive prey? Alternating between making fun of himself and ousting the inner fools of his quarry, Cohen is at once cruel, wickedly clever, and deviously capable of swaying terrible people to expose their true selves. When he toys with a psychic who communicates with the dead, it epitomizes his overall influence and the mindsets of everyone he dupes: humans are largely gullible. Mocking religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, and self-defense against dildo-armed assailants, “Bruno” proves that more than just the fashion world is superficial and vacuous.
– The Massie Twins