Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Movie mit Abe: Bruno

Directed by Larry Charles
Release July 10, 2009

Any viewer who willingly goes to see “Bruno” should know exactly what to expect. Based mostly off of the success of “Borat” in 2006, “Bruno” stars impersonator Sacha Baron Cohen as the flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion expert and television host Bruno. Anyone going in to see the film knows to prepare for lewd jokes throughout, plenty of embarrassing situations, and a whole lot of Cohen making random people on the street feel uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case. The first facet is absolutely true – “Bruno” lives for shots of naked penises and gross-out depictions of sexual scenarios no one need ever consider. The truth is that “Bruno” takes it too far; while Borat’s ten-minute naked fight was uproaringly hilarious, the extended graphic and explicit scenes just aren’t funny, and they go one for far too long. The main problem, particularly with those scenes, is that they’re not included because of their ability to shock people on the street. Instead, it’s all for the benefit of the audience, and that’s just not as fun.

Perhaps it’s because “Borat” was too popular for its own good (Cohen did have to retire the personality after the film became a hit and his con was too well known to fool many anymore), but “Bruno” hardly showcases any interactions with random people who have no idea they’re being interviewed. Those precious few that are included seem remarkably and painstakingly staged, such as Bruno’s service in the army or a test audience’s reaction to his extensive penis-dancing pilot. Bruno is an entertaining character, but he would be infinitely funnier if Cohen and director Larry Charles weren’t trying to appeal directly to their audiences. Targeting random people who make fools of themselves with their ignorance is what “Borat” was all about, and “Bruno” would have been so much better had it taken the same route. On only two occasions does Bruno seem to be really conversing with unknowing individuals, when he speaks to two airheaded blondes on a TV program, which isn’t overly amusing, and when he tries to convince a homophobic religious minister that he’s actually gay, which is far too reminiscent of Bill Maher’s recent documentary “Religulous.”

It may be unfair to constantly compare Cohen’s latest character effort to “Borat,” but the reason it’s so easy is that “Bruno” fails over and over again in all the ways that “Borat” succeeded. “Borat” told a surprisingly coherent story of a man in search of the American dream. To be honest, Bruno is a much less entertaining character than Borat, and making Bruno’s story would require some finessing. Whereas the plot of “Borat” appears to have come out of the footage that was shot and pieced together, the story of “Bruno” feels like it came straight out of Cohen and his writers’ team’s minds, and footage was shot afterward in order to fit this preset bill. While actual events may not have transpired that way, the film suffers from an overly focused premise and the continuous need to fulfill that premise while inserting shots of unnecessary nudity at every possible moment.

The question is, is “Bruno” funny? A little. The fact that it’s trying way too hard is a real kick in the balls to the film (an analogy Bruno would be sure to appreciate). The reality that the initial success of “Bruno” was based almost entirely on the popularity of “Borat” is even more of a shame. It’s as if Cohen and Charles saw how well “Borat” was received by much of the public in 2006, and set out to recreate an even more ridiculous adventure featuring the last remaining Cohen character (an Ali G film was released in the U.K. prior to “Borat” but failed to stir up much buzz). The disappointing result is this is the best they could come up with – everything’s riding on good memories of “Borat.” The tagline for “Bruno” even reads “Borat was so 2006.” Is it 2009 already? It took them three years to come up with this? It’s like a bad sequel that just doesn’t live up to the hype of the original film(s), only the bar was so much higher here. Of course it’s going to consist of immature humor, but “Borat” was far more intelligent than it should have been. Maybe “Bruno” is simply proof that some things, once drawn out, really are just are idiotic as they initially seemed.


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