Review

Bruno

Director    Larry Charles
Starring    Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten, Clifford Ba´┐Żagale
Release    10 JUL (US) 10 JUL (UK)    Certificate 18
3 stars

Rob

12th July 2009

Let's get this out of the way early ' I didn't care too much for Bruno when he appeared on Da Ali G Show. He was nothing more than just a bit of filler between the funnier skits of Ali G and Borat. It may have been his hair, his general demeanour or just my total lack of interest in the industry he's mocking, but Sacha Baron Cohen's other, other comic creation was difficult to warm to. Unsurprisingly, after seeing his promotion from Channel 4 fashionista to big screen diva, the consensus on the flamboyantly homosexual Austrian fashion journalist is still much the same: ze jury remains aus.

Just as in Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen has to have a reason to get his ostentatious alter-ego to America. So, after a Velcro-based mishap at Milan Fashion Week leaves Bruno blacklisted from the fashion industry and he's fired from Funkyzeit (the most successful fashion show in German-speaking countries... except Germany), our spunky reporter decides to head to LA in search of fame, attempting to become "the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler".

[gallery]The similarities between Bruno and Borat are obvious. Borat had his producer, Azamat; Bruno has his assistant, Lutz. Borat drove an ice cream van; Bruno has a Smart car. Borat travelled with a bear; Bruno adopts an African baby named OJ. Naturally, both characters also make a lot of Americans very angry indeed. What sets them apart is their affability. Borat was misunderstood and culturally different, making him a sympathetic character that people could warm to ' his innocence was endearing. Bruno, on the other hand, is self-centred, deluded and offensive ' people are a lot less willing to entertain his antics. While Borat had a valid reason for travelling to America, Bruno merely goes there for personal gain ' a concept that doesn't have as many comedy legs as an anti-Semitic Kazakh journalist attempting to understand the American way of life.

Structurally, Bruno at least attempts to follow a narrative through-line, but distraction is easy. He makes a TV show featuring discussions whether celebrities should abort their unborn babies; he attempts (unsuccessfully) to make a sex tape with Congressman Ron Paul; he attempts to bring peace to the Middle East but confuses militant group Hamas with tasty snack hummus (though in a delicious piece of irony, both his Israeli and Palestine guests find common ground in their love of the food. "Now ve're making progress!" offers Bruno).

Hidden amongst all the gay jokes, singing dicks and mimed acts of fellatio, Sacha Baron Cohen is revealed to be a brave, inventive comic and a master satirist. It's one thing making a supermodel admit her profession is "the hardest job in the world" and discovering homophobia in the American South (shocker), but other scenes, such as Paula Abdul discussing her charity work while sat on the back of a kneeling Mexican immigrant, are as inspired as they are absurd. Easy targets? Perhaps, but watching Cohen tell a bona fide terrorist his "King Osama looks like a dirty wizard" still takes the breath away. Chris Morris would be proud.

Knowing how much controversy he caused with Borat, Cohen appears to thrive on it and now seems to deliberately go out of his way to cause as much offence to as many people as possible ' discussing his newly-adopted black baby on a US version of Jeremy Kyle in front of a predominately black audience is a perfect illustration of this. With Borat, the humour seemed more natural, but with Bruno, too much of it seems staged to cause the maximum chaos. Perhaps this is a sign that Sacha Baron Cohen is becoming too famous to take ill-informed Americans for a ride.

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