By Fred Topel | Image property of Universal Pictures
Bruno is not Borat. I’m fine with that. Perhaps Sacha Baron Cohen had to change his approach since a lot more people know his characters now, though clearly not enough to thwart a documentary style Bruno. At least Cohen didn’t totally let popularity ruin his comedy.
Borat was an innocent racist pointing out America’s biases. Bruno is not. He’s a celebrity wannabe, so that’s a different perspective. Bruno seems more like he’s trying to bother people. He may act like he thinks he’s doing great art and doesn’t understand why it offends people, but he should. The premise with Borat was that in his culture, all of this was acceptable. There is no culture where Bruno’s antics would be tolerated.
That’s fine. Different character, different satire. Still, it’s more slapstick pratfally than cultural. Tearing down the curtains and falling onto the runway is a very deliberate bit. It’s still outrageous and hilarious, but not profound. He name drops the obviously funny sounding or mutually agreed upon racist or closeted stars, and basically makes fun of celebrity by being a bad one.
He is a relentless pain in the ass though, and I admire that. It’s no shock that an agent is not amused by Bruno’s bad line readings or that he scheduled an anal bleaching during a business call. Antagonizing politicians and terrorists is ballsy, but still only get the reactions you’d expect. He takes the full frontal penis to the next level for sure.
Some of the stunts feel like they had to have cooperation. I mean, how would Bruno get onto the set of Medium without someone in production’s okay? The baggage claim gag had to be planned, for airport safety, and all it really does is get the reactions you’d expect.
A lot of the early bits feel contrived to be funny. The focus group for his fake interview show is rightfully offended. The show was designed to be hated, so he got people to hate it. So you proved you could do it, but that’s not a point of view. If he found people who liked a show about insulting celebrity fetuses, that would be shock humor.
The chair people are there to make people uncomfortable, and they do, so you just proved it. Celebrities rightfully abstain from Bruno’s antics because it would make them look bad. Having the reaction you’re supposed to isn’t really the purpose of reactionary comedy. It’s just funny to see how far he goes to get that reaction.
The bit that does reach that point is Bruno interviewing potential stage parents for his baby movie. Yup, they really are that negligent. I hope those are the only four people who fell for the bit. There couldn’t be other parents who agree to egregious danger for their infants. Now that’s satire.
Finally, he hits the homophobes. That’s when the movie goes from just funny to truly awesome. Bringing the gay to Texas is the sort of confrontation of values that elevates Cohen above the pack. He challenges people’s hateful beliefs and forces them to be a part of situations they would vehemently avoid.
The second hour of Bruno is a laugh out loud satire that will make the world a better place. That’s what we want from Sacha Baron Cohen. Funny is okay, but lots of people do funny. I’m glad he still transcended and took the bad people of the world down a peg. And at least we know once he’s rid the world of racism and homophobia, he can still make fun of himself.