Dir: Larry Charles
"We have chosen your baby to be dressed as a Nazi Officer, pushing a wheelbarrow, with a Jewish baby, into an oven"
“Brüno” is Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow up to his 2006 hit “Borat”. Filmed in a similar, documentary style, by the same director, Larry Charles, and based on a character from his TV show “The Ali G Show”. Brüno is a gay Austrian fashionista that is hell-bent on getting famous. He figures the only way to get the world’s attention is to move to Los Angeles with his assistant Lutz. When he arrives he meets a bunch of different people on his quest to fame.
The films plays out much like Borat. It has an overall fictional narrative that facilitates the segments that otherwise would seem very fragmented. The narrative is fairly weak, even compared to Borat, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, if the ‘real’ segments were a) funnier or b) more frequent. There are very few scenes that are not staged, and from which the jokes are derived from real person’s reactions to Brüno. This is a problem.
The best stuff in the film is scenes where Brüno gives his subjects just enough rope with which to hang themselves, as opposed to the majority of the film where Brüno makes jokes, or puts himself in a compromising position. Examples of the former: the answers Brüno gets when he speaks to the twin celebrities and asks them what charities are hot right now. Examples of the latter: when Brüno confuses ‘hummus’ and ‘Hamas’ when speaking with the religious readers in the Middle East.
I prefer the comedy to come from the situations where Brüno elicits a response from people that reveals how shallow, racist and bigoted they really are; something the “Borat” had in spades. But unfortunately, the majority of gags in this film came from Brüno acting flamboyant and obnoxious and people looking at him funny. His targets in the film are easy, religion, fashion, homophobes, which, again, isn’t necessarily a problem, but it becomes a weak point of the film when he does nothing funny or interesting with it. For example, when Brüno is tied to his assistant Lutz in a suggestive position, while they are both wearing leather and chains etc, they encounter a procession of religious people protesting against homosexuals. All that happens is they ask the protestors to untie them. The protesters react the way anyone would and bat them out of their way. Any protestors would have done that. It didn’t matter that they were protesting homosexuality. I found many scenes in the film just as uninspired as the one I just described.
Where Borat lures people into revealing their true selves with his unassuming cluelessness and naivety, Brüno is brash, outspoken and obnoxious. This is where the biggest problem of the film is for me. I enjoy the character of Borat much more than Brüno. Even on the TV show I found Borat much more endearing. Brüno was funny on the show in small doses, and most of the comedy came from Cohen putting himself inches away from a serious beating by some US redneck at a gun show.
Brüno elicits very standard and easy reactions from people, that don’t really say anything about the subject. Like when he tries to seduce a senator in his bedroom. Due to a technical difficulty, the senator’s interview stopped and Brüno entertains him in his bedroom, where he proceeds to flirt with him. The senator’s reaction is to get out of the room and declare the interview over. This is a fairly standard reaction to someone as unprofessional as the character of Brüno.
There are some laughs to be hand in Brüno, but I think that Borat fans may leave disappointed. I hope this doesn't end Cohen’s career, as I do find him genuinely funny. Maybe it’s time to tone down a bit and let people embarrass themselves.
Ultimately comedy comes down to the amount of laughs had, and in “Brüno” I had very few; and that’s this film’s biggest crime.
Top 5 Things About "Brüno"
5. The screaming Hasidic Jews chasing Brüno.
4. LaToya Jackson sitting on a Mexican worker while talking about charity.
3. Brüno's baby.
2. The cage match.
1. Scene with the parents at the baby photography place.