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A movie released July 10, 2009

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Don't Ask

  • Jul 12, 2009
Pros: Funny, shocking, tells us a lot about ourselves

Cons: Meant to shock more than make us laugh

The Bottom Line: If Borat fought Bruno, who do you think would win?

Remember how, after Sacha Baron Cohen made Borat, people everywhere said there's no way he would ever get away with making a sequel or a similar movie like that again? Well, here we have Bruno confirming that Sacha Baron Cohen has managed to get away with it again.

It's not often I can say a movie shocked me to the very core of my being. I'm a guy who didn't see what all the fuss over the violence in No Country for Old Men was about. So yeah, I really don't shock very easily. But there were multiple times during Bruno in which I needed a fishing reel to get my jaw off the floor and several strips of duct tape to keep it shut. The shock factor in Bruno is more than enough to get you to turn to the person in the audience next to you say ask "Did I really just see that?" I know the schtick for Sacha Baron Cohen's movies is to put people in awkward situations and film their reactions. But there were points in Bruno which were so over-the-top - especially toward the end - that I just couldn't help but wonder if they were staged. 

Cohen's approach to filmmaking speaks well for his abilities to stay in character, perform quick-thinking improv comedy, and take risks. This is the point in the review in which I would normally say Cohen must have balls of brass, but the problem is there are some rather gratuitous shots of Cohen's scrotum in Bruno, and it looked perfectly normal to me. (That is one line I never, EVER thought I would end up typing.) With just an alter ego, a rolling camera, and questionable sanity, Cohen throws himself into potentially dangerous situations face first without any thought of how things may not end up as well as he would probably like. As a former film student, I tend to look at movies with more technical thoughts than many people. If I see a perfectly executed steadicam shot or a reel of tongue-twisting dialogue, my usual thoughts are about how many takes the director needed to get it right. In Bruno, Cohen had ONE chance to make sure everything went as well as he hoped, or he was SOL.

Like Borat a few years ago, the plot of Bruno is there only to set up the unsuspecting American public. Cohen plays his famous Ali G character Bruno, an Austrian supermodel who is disgraced at a fashion show when the jewel of his wardrobe, an all-velcro suit, ruins him. (Don't ask.) Dumped by his boyfriend and with his career in shambles, Bruno and his new assistant, Lutz, fly to Los Angeles with a rudimentary plan: Become really, REALLY famous! The ensuing hijinks of Bruno all serve as the backdrop of his plan to do just that. He starts out using more traditional methods of finding fame - like starting a talk show - but eventually he begins using more extreme ideas. 

In his quest to become famous, Bruno dreams up some of the most cockamamie ideas imaginable. He begins by trying to interview celebrities, including Paula Abdul and Harrison Ford. (The latter consists solely of two words: F*** off.) Later he takes his inspiration from people whose fame is of the more gratuitous kind, thinking up ideas like using a sex tape. He attempts to be a peacekeeper between Palestine and Israel. (Don't ask.) He goes the way of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, adopting a child from another country (don't ask) which he then tries to exploit on a talk show in Dallas. Finally, he looks at some of the biggest stars in the world - Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kevin Spacey - and notices they have one thing in common: All of them are straight! And so Bruno sets out on a quest to become the straightest man who ever lived!

As I said, I couldn't help but wonder if any of this had actually been staged. I'm not saying I suspect any false advertising or funny business on Cohen's end. But there are some things that I simply found very hard to believe. Did Cohen, as Bruno, actually sit there trying to negotiate a peace accord between Palestine and Israel? (At least they agreed that hummus is a delicious and nutritious dish.) And did he really, soon after, actually have the brass to ask a member of a terrorist group to kidnap him? Did he really take us into a swingers' party, try to seduce Ron Paul, and try to ask God Hates Fags members to free him and his lover from bondage after an implied sex act? (DO. NOT. ASK.) I am in awe not only of these wildly risky acts of improv comedy but how masterfully he played his role. 

The weakness of Bruno, unfortunately, is that Cohen's approach is really made more to shock than anything. In Borat, Cohen had a good point to make about learning about the heart of America. He may have put people in uncomfortable situations, but he presented himself as a well-intentioned foreigner attempting to find the best in the American public. In Bruno, Cohen is out to be as crude as possible. Most of the explicit non-nudity - as well as the nudity - is very gratuitous and just unpleasant to look at. About halfway through the movie, the shock factor takes over for the comedy factor and I just stared in disbelief more than I risked suffocation from laughing too hard. You can't decry Cohen for lack of trying, but rather because there are moments when he tries too hard. And there are some hilarious scenes in the movie - a person favorite involved Bruno trying to contact Milli from Milli Vanilli through a psychic.

Ultimately Bruno, like Borat, ends up telling us and showing us a lot about ourselves. There is a scene where Bruno sets up a photo shoot with other kids for his adopted child. Bruno shows us just how much some parents are willing to exploit their kids when he tells them about some of the images and if their kids would be comfortable with them. The parents repeatedly answer "yes" despite looking extremely uncomfortable themselves. But on the higher end, he is unanimously told off by the focus group he shows his television pilot to. Cohen again spends a lot of time exploiting southerners for their reputed bigotry. When he tries to go straight, he visits a minister who almost appears to be fighting back homosexual urges himself. But it is also a group of southerners who let him into a swingers party. During his interview with Paula Abdul, Paula gives him her usual platitudes about how helping people is the air she breathes - while sitting atop a Mexican being used as furniture. (Don't ask.) Not a Mexican sofa, but a real human being who happens to be of Mexican origin. 

Bruno is no Borat. Bruno has moments where your lungs will risk falling out of your mouth because you're laughing so hard. But it lacks the heart of Borat and after awhile, the laugh factor is almost completely ditched in favor of the shock factor. 


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More Bruno (movie) reviews
review by . July 21, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
The title alone should let you know that Sacha Baron Cohen leaves no button unpushed. Bruno is about an Austrian host of a fashion TV show that ends up getting blacklisted after he's booed out of Milan Fashion Week. He moves to Los Angeles to become "the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler." No one is safe in his quest to become a superstar- Paula Abdul, Ron Paul, stage moms, Alabama, Arkansas,  "gay reformers", MMA, models, the cast of the TV show …
review by . December 22, 2009
 Sacha Baron Cohen first came to the attention of the world media with his brilliant character known as Borat, a Kazakhstani reporter who went to America to make a documentary about American life. Mixing real interviews that mock the prejudices of those he is interviewing with a tagged on plot to move the film along, Borat was a massively surprising success. Now with Bruno, Cohen's last character to not have his own feature film was set to become an equally successful piece but due to the success …
Quick Tip by . November 18, 2009
Liked Borat with his innocent stupidity but Bruno was thoughtless; maybe that's the point?
Quick Tip by . November 26, 2009
You have make offensiveness funny to make it work - it did in Borat but this often came across as crude and mean. Wife hated it. HATED it.
review by . July 10, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Great Laughs and outrageous humor     Cons: Some may find it to offensive     The Bottom Line: If you do not mind outrageous humor, this is a great mix of comedy and social satire.     Life is good for Austrian fashonista Bruno (Sacha Baron Cohen). As the star of the top Austrian fashion show, he is a fixture at all of the social events and is the flamboyant highpoint of any event he graces.    That is until things …
review by . July 28, 2009
Bruno is the third character from the Ali G Show to star in a feature film.  Bruno is an Austrian model.fashion critic who travels to America to become a star after being blackballed from the European fashion industry (he wore an all velcro outfit that proved disastrous at a fashion show).  Along with his assistant, Bruno tries to break into Hollywood by becoming an actor and later on trying to host his own reality show.  Failure after failure nearly breaks Bruno until he decides …
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About this movie


Brüno (pronounced as Bruno) is a 2009 mockumentary comedy film directed by Larry Charles. Sacha Baron Cohen, who also produced and co-wrote the movie, stars as the flamboyant gay Austrian fashion journalist Brüno. The film is the third based on characters from Da Ali G Show, following Ali G Indahouse and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. A cut version of the film was also released, Bruno: Snipped, running two and a half minutes shorter to meet the demands of 15-17-year-old teenage viewers.
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Movies, Comedy Movies, Fashion, Comedy, Austria, Mockumentary, Clifford Banagale, Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen


Director: Larry Charles
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: July 10, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 83 min
Studio: Universal Pictures, Media Rights Capital, Four by Two
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