Bruno Review: A Satirical Experiment that Fails to Hit Home

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Any fans of Sacha Baron Cohen’s television phenomenon Da Ali G Show knows that this witty and insensitive man is able to coerce and balance his show with crude honesty and a critical analysis of cultural sensitivities. However, Bruno, Cohen’s new skin for unleashing an onslaught of shock value humor and uncomfortable realities, remains in the same market as the 2006 version Borat, a film that seems incomplete in its joke delivery and its social message. While Borat fell apart in its latter half, sacrificing wit and cleverness for exposing societal defects for outrageous crudeness, Bruno’s first half starts us off on the same path not allowing for a strong enough base for the joke to stand on, sort of a funny anecdote without the context. Though for all of its shortcomings, Bruno is still a unique piece of sociological experimentation that is still generally funny, but lacks the ingenuity that Sacha Baron Cohen is capable of.

The story framework for the story of Bruno definitely has holes and appears quite awkward in presentation as the beginning trudges along. Our protagonist, the fashion friendly Austrian homosexual Bruno played charismatically by Sacha Baron Cohen, loses his privileges, job, and sexual partner to a fashion debacle and heads to Los Angeles, with his assistant’s assistant Lutz, to try and become an American celebrity. While this seems simple enough Bruno makes this a complex endeavor traveling everywhere from Alabama, to the Middle East, and even Africa to pick up ivory tusks and a new born African child. The progression the film takes for its character seems at times unbelievable resulting in a sort of indolent film that is giving the audience what they expect to see rather than what could be accomplished with the satirical nature of Bruno’s character. Since Bruno is a homosexual and Austrian, there are plenty of gags that result from this combination, such as referring to Bruno as the other misunderstood Austrian who was trying something different to the outrageous sexual gags, including a champagne bottle and a fire extinguisher, that make fun of the perceptions of gay sexual acts. However, in trying to balance a satire filled with homosexual perception, the depravity of Hollywood celebrity culture, and the uneasiness or even outrage towards homosexual behavior from the typical punch line of the “redneck south,” Bruno begins to unravel and fails to hit the mark on all of its intended targets.

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As the guerilla camerawork goes, Larry Charles, known for directing Borat and Bill Maher’s Religulous, does a decent job with the material at hand, but at times the film comes off as lazy or even too staged. It’s difficult to capture a successful documentary tone, however, the film comes off too clean anyway for that sort of presentation, which is unfortunate considering some of the best material in the film is the unscripted improvisation from Sacha Baron Cohen. Larry Charles is able to fully copy his widely accepted technical delivery for Borat making it seem that Bruno is just the splitting image of his previous counterpart, with a slightly better fake accent. The presentation seems recycled and the jokes in their context seem unfinished, especially in regards to its strongest points mocking Hollywood celebrity culture, participating as an extra in a television show or hiring babies for controversial photo shoots. There is also some better material in the homosexual conversion chapter of the film, which results in an awkward trip to a swinger’s party, making it seem witnessing heterosexual acts is just as uncomfortable as witnessing homosexual acts.

Sacha Baron Cohen himself is really the linchpin of the entire production and without his dedication to character and brilliant quips of improvisation the film would lose all of its credibility. Even when Cohen is being violently whipped by an angry swinger, Cohen is able to keep his composure and even has some incredibly clever lines, such as requesting the woman to put on a beard to help in the mood. It’s marvelous to witness that sort of improvisational wit coming up with clever one liners in the midst of being in an unscripted and real environment of people. This isn’t to say that these people they have hunted down for Bruno aren’t easy targets it just means that Cohen is able to surrender any sort of polite or cordial inhibitions any other normal human being would have. Despite the disjointed story delivery and a message that doesn’t really hit home, Sacha Baron Cohen still is generally funny, if not as cleverly funny as he was on his television show, holding the film up from structural collapse.

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In the same vein as Borat, Bruno fails to hold the entire framework of the film together, either with its intended satirical message or overall scene by scene joke relevance, resulting in what feels as an unfinished product. Granted there are some extremely funny scenarios, varying from awkwardness, shocking, and witty, that make the film enjoyable if not sustainable in its long haul but this isn’t enough to push this sociological experiment out of the more average examples of modern comedy. Bruno is a film that lacks full direction and completely clever material, making a product that meets our expectations rather than pushing the boundaries in a real courageous direction: satirical relevance.

Grade: C+

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Comments
One Response to “Bruno Review: A Satirical Experiment that Fails to Hit Home”
  1. Juan Carlos says:

    Borat was way better than this one. Although it had some funny parts like the swinger party it did come off a bit staged and lacked a good story.

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