I determined last night that, were I under twenty-one, it would have been far easier for me to buy alcohol laced with cocaine than for somebody under seventeen to sneak into see Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow up to the comedy hit Borat. I’ve been over seventeen for over four years now, and the employees at the theater checked my license when I bought the ticket, when I gave it to the ticket-tearing cineplex gatekeeper, and when I got to the entrance to the theater itself. There were more security checks here than there are at the airport. It was a great indication of the raunchy decadence I was about to witness with the hundreds of other people in that packed, noisy theater.
You might believe, as I did, that you have mentally primed yourself for such debauchery. But nothing could adequately prepare somebody for seeing this movie. Bruno is, quite simply, like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It does not simply push boundaries; it brings in a massive testicle wrecking ball to smash them, urinates and defecates all over the remains, then streaks away in glorified nudity to uncharted territory, boldly going where no man has dared go before. It’s the Star Trek of comedy, with more penises.
My sense of humor has been sensitized by humor like South Park, meaning I seldom dub something outlandishly distasteful. But if you sit through this movie without ever feelings uncomfortable, offended, or violated, please kick Hitler in the balls for me when you’re in hell. This film ventures further than Borat ever dared, and delivers fewer laughs and social commentary than its predecessor.
Cohen is, to be a sure, a comic mastermind, a living tour-de-force who does the unique and the daring. How he neither breaks character nor cracks a smile when doing these enactments is a testament to his talents. Whether he is holding it together with somebody he has completely befuddled or sticking to his shtick when threatened to get beaten into a little, gay, puddle of blood, it mystifies me how he accomplishes these acts (alive). He comes face to face with intolerant religious zealots, back-country rednecks, and even a fucking terrorist leader (whom he asks to kidnap him, and refers to Bin Laden as a “dirty old wizard”). He’s lucky he came out of this alive, much less with both hands non-sawed off. He truly risked his well-being for his art.
Though that art appears more forced and, well, scripted than it has in the past. It seems likely that, after Borat was so successful, he had to be much more meticulous in choosing his victims, who might be a little wary to accept this bizarre caricature at face value. That doesn’t stop him from getting some great interviews (including presidential candidate Ron Paul) but it does mean the line between scripted and improvisation is blurred, and that the interviews are quite short lived. This presents one of the major flaws in the film, you have a set-up and a finish, but no build-up. It’s like Cohen made it his mission to see how quickly he could get somebody in and out. It’s funny, but it’s hasty, and it leaves the film with a vacant feeling.
Don’t get me wrong, I laughed, sometimes hard. But many of these were from shock and appall, as I saw things on a big screen I never thought I would. Besides the gross-out gags, there’s a lot of uncomfortable chuckling, as “Bruno” tries to seduce Ron Paul, or brings his newly adopted black baby on a talk show with a T-shirt that reads “Gayby,” and is viciously attacked by the crowd. Then suddenly there’s a shot that will instantly remind those that have seen it of Meatspin (if you haven’t seen it, don’t look, I warned you) and you’re guffawing in flabbergasted disbelief that they’re showing this to mainstream audiences. There may be movies where I’ve laughed more frequently, but there are few where I’ve gone through so many different types of laughter, from the nervous giggle to the gross out guffaw, from the clever remark chuckle to the riotous knee slap.
But sometimes, rather than laugh, you must place your head in your hands and shudder for the person who is the unknowing butt of the joke. It is truly appalling what some people do and say in this film, and while I won’t claim it’s the norm it is important we know that these people do in fact exist, waste our precious oxygen, and subject the entire world to their backwards and flat out dangerous action. I’m not looking at homophobes so much here, but rather at the mothers who were willing to exploit there children in such ways as to make John and Kate look like regular, loving parents.
As for social commentary, it’s surprisingly lacking. He only interacts briefly with the “Christians” holding the “God hates fags” signs, though he does go to get cured by a spiritual healer. But it’s never quite as biting as its predecessor, and he pushes people to react in a bigoted manner more so than he had to in the past. Now I’m not saying that he didn’t interact with some truly intolerant people, but as I mentioned here, he does it in a manner that would incite most anybody. Perhaps less would have been more, where he wasn’t such a flamboyancy. I’ve heard people claim something to the extent of, “you can’t blame the match for the gas being flammable,” and up to a point that’s true. But he often brings more than a match, it’s more akin to an atomic flame thrower, and the sting would have been harsher had he not gone so far out of his way to start the controversies that he does.
It’s a nice, short film, which is indeed a relief. Though there is some funny stuff from the trailer missing, and the entire Janet Jackson scene is scrapped. I’m hoping for some extras on the DVD, because I’m sure there’s some great stuff he left out.
The plot is trivial and unimportant, as it should be. Nobody really cares why he gets into these scrapes, only that he does. It’s a funny film, and it has some really witty bits (here’s to Brad Pitt adopting the nickname Bradolf Pittler). But it’s intermingled with too much crass and the bits speed by too quickly for it to be as successful as its predecessor.