Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bruno ***

*** out of ****

I don't think there's ever been an entertainer quite like Sacha Baron Cohen. Search around the world, look through the history books; has anyone devoted so much to a role before? This man will do anything- literally, anything- for a laugh. I would bet he would be willing to die in a role if it was funny enough.
Sacha Baron Cohen, who most people know from Borat, returns in Bruno, a film very much like its predecessor. The plot is completely unimportant, but here it is in a nutshell: Bruno is the flamboyantly gay host of a popular Austrian fashion TV show, until he screws up big in public and gets fired, and he decides to move to Los Angeles to become a huge star. He takes his assistant Lutz along with him (Swedish actor Gustaf Hammarsten, who is also unusually devoted to his role) and after failing to become an actor, attempts to make a show interviewing celebrities. After many failures, including losing his adopted African baby (named O.J.- not kidding), he decides to convert to heterosexuality. Of course, they probably made this story up as they went along.
Like Borat, this film is very unusual bordering on experimental film: a semi-faux documentary with just a handful of actors interacting with real people, with only the cameras and film crew around to give away that it's all a giant hoax. The film plays out like several episodes of Punk'd, if that show was rated X. Meant to expose homophobia and prejudice in people, it succeeds more at just being very funny, and ultimately isn't very deep or discussion-starting. Most people are very much aware of the cameras in the room and are very polite and accepting. It's the people who are not polite who cause the most jaw-dropping scenes in the film. And yes, the film is very funny, although it does have many cringe-inducing moments and excessive sexual humor. A gay sex montage early on is so cartoonishly offensive that it may inspire some people to leave. Not every joke hits home (his thick Austrian accent is sometimes distracting from what he's actually saying), but Baron Cohen proves he has no fear and will stoop to any level for a laugh.
He does manage to dupe some celebrities, very surprising indeed since he himself has become a celebrity since the success of Borat. He manages to punk Harrison Ford, Paula Abdul, and most notably, Ron Paul, who he tries to seduce into making a sex tape. (It doesn't go so well.) There are some wildly histerical and inspired moments, including Bruno interviewing the head of a known terrorist group begging the man to kidnap him, Bruno and Lutz chained together in leather and dildos crossing paths with a God Hates Fags group holding signs, and running into a focus group meeting that has just condemned his new show pilot and then dancing for them.
Bruno is every bit as funny as Borat, although it goes a lot farther in terms of crude behavior. It's not quite accurate to say the film goes over the top sometimes; the film never goes below the top. For this reason, the film could only be found funny by a select group of people, who are open-minded and have an intense love for comedy. Everyone else will probably not get the humor, and find it disgusting. But regardless of whether you like the movie or not, you have to admire Baron Cohen for losing himself completely in the part, never dropping character for a millisecond, even if he's in danger of being physically hurt. (The camera guys are also brave; they get thrashed more than once.) He definitely deserves an Oscar for acting- try putting Sean Penn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis, or any great actor in these situations and see if they keep a straight face, and can produce jokes as outrageous as he does as often as he does. Sacha Baron Cohen is a visionary; it's just he's an extremist, and refuses to make films that appeal to the more mainstream audience.
I would recommend this film to everyone who liked Borat or is familiar with Baron Cohen's comedy, and people who like reality prank shows.

You can watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAGpmNb2xfQ

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