Is penis the "in thing" this season? I mean it's always been "a thing", but if you thought there was an over abundance of the male organ in the The Hangover, Brüno is like the penis' Jurrasic Park. Wait, I'm getting off track. Let's back up... umm, that's a bad choice of words. Let's start from the beginning.
For months we've seen ads promoting Sacha Baron Cohen's new film, Brüno, which centers on the story of a flamboyant Austrian TV Show host. But the biggest advertisement has been "Brüno" himself. Much like what he did before the 2006 release of Borat, Sacha made the rounds on TV talk shows in character. Brüno's biggest appearance was the "staged" stunt he pulled at this years MTV Movie Awards, in which he reverse mounted Eminem, while wearing nothing but a thong and angel wings. Also, there is quite a big built in audience(myself included), who first discovered the Bruno character, along with Borat and Ali G on HBO's Da Ali G Show, in which Cohen first showcased his three guises here in the States.
When I went to see Brüno on Friday, the crowd couldn't hold in their laughter, and I'm just talking about the opening seconds of the film. A blank screen and a beyond awful techno pop song playing in the background isn't funny. But combined with the audience's anticipation, this caused an eruption of laughter. It looks like the marketing campaign had done it's job; the theater is packed full of people ready to laugh. So far, so good.
Not only is the theater packed full of people with their funnybone set to "ON", the audience is made up of people ready to be "in on the joke" when Bruno unleashes his antics on real and unsuspecting people. We all came in thinking that whatever Brüno does, or whatever comes out of his mouth, we can handle, and it's funny because the people he's deceiving can't. We know what to expect, at least we think we know what to expect. Little do we know, that no matter what our awareness is of Cohen's previous work, and whatever sense of comedic "enlightenment" we think we have from that, we have no idea what we're in for!
Less than 10 minutes in, I spot a couple groups walking out of the theater. Their line had been crossed. Why? The introduction of Brüno's boyfriend Diesel, makes the naked wrestling scene in Borat look like a Disney movie. The use of the male anatomy, as well as several jaw dropping contraptions caused a riotous reaction of, "can they show that?" and "WHY would they show that?!" No wonder the theater was admitting people like it was a Hollywood club, turning away the uncool and under age(well just underage). "If you look under 25, have your I.D ready." I got carded of course... jerks. If I only knew, that this was only the tip(again bad choice of words) of the iceberg.
When the fashionista is fired from his TV Show Funkyzeit, and blacklisted from the fashion world, he goes to America in a quest to become an über cool celebrity. Helping Bruno in his journey, is his Assistant's assistant, Lutz, played by Gustaf Hammarsten.
Unlike Borat, Bruno isn't someone we quietly root for. I guess anyone who refers to themselves in the third person is automatically unlikable, but that's part of the character. But I also noticed that Bruno's accent would often slip into Ali G territory. I noticed Cohen doing this on some of his talk show appearances, and I was disappointed when I saw this in the movie as well. On Da Ali G Show segments, Bruno never slipped into Cohen's native British tongue. Though I have noticed Borat flashing "West Side" signs, like Ali G does when he talks with his hands. Some habits die hard, and with a vengeance... empire strikes back.
Anyway, I must point out, and you can probably tell, that I've been a fan of Cohen's for years. After countless viewings, I've practically memorized the two seasons of Da Ali G Show, and I have almost an equal amount of admiration for the Borat movie. If you can find the UK segments he's done, they're well worth the watch. I think he's is one of the funniest and most unique comedians out there. He's definitely the most fearless, and arguably one of the most clever.
Brüno absolutely shines in familiar territory, duping and exposing unsuspecting people into revealing their most inner and un PC thoughts. He thrives in moments of unbearable awkwardness. We cringe at the horror of how willing parents are to put their children in harms way for the sake of fame. How he keeps a straight face through these situations is mezmerizing. I was often in tears, gasping for air because I was laughing so hard.
But even though Brüno has plenty of laughs, it completely misses the mark. I've never laughed so hard, yet felt so unsatisfied. I can't help but feel that what Brüno ended up being, is different than what Sacha set out to do. Maybe Sacha and director Larry Charles tried too hard to "out do" what they did on Borat. But the ratio of laughs to disgust, and funny to offensive was way out of proportion. I'll take the salty with the sweet, but it's gotta be balanced. At the end of the day, it just didn't feel right. Like his suit made entirely out of Velcro, Bruno gets tangled up in itself.