Rated R for pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language.
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten and Clifford Bañagale.
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer, Jeff Schaffer, and Peter Baynham.
Directed by Larry Charles.
To begin, let me say that I understand the comic genius of Sacha Baron Cohen, and appreciate his odd sense of humor that pushes audiences beyond their comfort zones and pokes fun at diverse forms of discrimination. His break out 2006 hit Borat was extremely funny, albeit a little obscene in some places. Now comes Brüno, another "mockumentary" (as I like to call such films that are not really documentaries but are produced to look as though they are...i.e. This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Dog Show, etc.) much like Borat, in which Cohen completely immerses himself in an alternate personality to exploit the cultural foibles of Americans and others.
Cohen plays Brüno, the host of an Austrian TV fashion show. When Brüno is fired over an unfortunate mishap involving a suit made of Velcro during a fashion show, he sets off to America, where he hopes to become a big movie star. Besides his thick accent, extravagant homosexual persona, lack of talent and absense of Hollywood connections, Brüno begins his quest to become famous by hiring an agent, appearing as an extra on a TV show, developing his own TV pilot, and a sneaky attempt to make a hidden camera sex tape with former presidential candidate Ron Paul.
When all of his efforts fail, Brüno sets off to the Middle East to resolve the centuries long conflict between Jewish and Arab cultures. His intent is to get behind a "cause" like Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and other activist celebrities. When that plan fails, Brüno returns to the U.S. via Africa, where he adopts a child (actually he traded an iPod for the baby boy).
Upon his return, Brüno appears on a Dallas area talk show where he offends everybody, expecially members of the african-american community, loses his child and breaks up with his devoted assistant/lover Lutz. Brüno then decides that to become famous he must become straight and shake off his homosexual tendencies. His methods include seeing a religious therapist who specializes in "healing" homosexuality, going hunting with some good 'ole southern boys, spending time at a national guard army base, and joining a group of swinger couples.
I'm going to go ahead an spoil it for everybody by saying that Brüno does eventually become famous over a televised sexual reunion with his former assistant/lover Lutz during a cage fighting event.
Like I said before, I understand Cohen's humor. Rather than preach about stereotypical cultural biases, Cohen places his characters (like Borat, Brüno and his British TV host Ali G.) in situations where real people expose such biases on their own, via a staged documentary setting. The problem with Brüno is those moments are lost in a litany of crass, graphic and obscene Brüno-like behavior that is flooded with extreme sexual activity and silly antics.
The other problem with Brüno, especially when compared to Borat, is the absence of innocence. Where Borat enters into crazy situations and deals with them in naive ways, Brüno seems interested only in his own pleasure and finding new opportunities to expose himself.
Speaking of exposure, let me warn all that Brüno is filled with substantial scenes of extreme male nudity, the likes of which made me wonder how such a film escapes with an R instead of and NC-17 rating. There are several moments in Brüno where explicit (mostly homosexual) acts are shown with "black dots" covering various areas of the bodies involved. I wondered if a film that allowed such extreme viewing of genitalia in some scenes would need the black dots in others, but I'd already given up on trying to understand the hypocrisy of the MPAA years ago. Suffice to say that any heterosexual man who dares see Brüno had better be extremely comfortable with his own masculinity.
Before anyone accuse me of being a prude or intolerant, let me say that such scenes would be less troubling to me if Brüno had been funny, which it is not. There are a few humorous moments, but I don't remember them because I'm still trying to erase the obscene parts from my memory. Brüno could have been funny if Cohen had relied on his comic genuis rather than his penis for laughs.