Old 07-15-2009, 02:34 PM
Larry Charles's Brüno

Brüno (2009)

After the complete disaster that was "Borat," Sacha Baron Cohen returns with his followup, "Brüno." Cohen first gained fame on TV with "Da Ali G Show," on which he first toyed with the idea of creating characters. This led to the creation of both "Borat" and "Brüno," films in which he takes these characters to extreme situations, sometimes staged, sometimes a complete surprise.

For this film, Cohen plays Brüno, a homosexual fashion expert from Austria. When he decides to wear a suit made entirely of Velcro to a fashion show, things go terribly wrong, causing him to be ejected, not only from the show, but from the Austrian fashion world. He decides to come to Los Angeles to become a celebrity, but after several failed attempts, he figures that he must become straight in order to do so, which leads to several more attempts, not only to "cure" his homosexuality, but also to gain the fame he desires.

The main reason "Borat" was such a failure (as a film, not financially obviously) was for a very simple reason: it wasn't funny. Cohen took his character and tried to put him into amusing situations while also trying to be disgusting and offensive. What he ended up with was a flat film with an extremely irritating character.

Now he is trying his luck with his new character, Brüno. While Brüno is not nearly as annoying a character as Borat was, he still manages to get old somewhat quickly, but not to the point where it became unbearable. Borat had this problem. So much so, that when I tried to watch it a second time, trying to figure out why it got such wide acclaim, I was only able to get about a third of the way through before having to turn it off.

Brüno does provide some small funny parts, but they are far too few to account for the film being even 76 minutes long. Cohen does continue to use the shock element here like with his previous film, but it works slightly better than last time, particularly for a scene in which he is screening a new show for a group of people to give feedback.

Included are segments in which Cohen ambushes "celebrities" (the term is used loosely) like Paula Abdul and Ron Paul. These are the segments which tend to work best for this film, much more so than the scripted material. It's much more amusing to see Abdul appalled at having to sit on people instead of furniture or eat off of a human being than to watch the completely flat scripted material between Brüno and his assistant's assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten).

The Ron Paul segment was interesting as well. It was interesting to watch as the situation got more and more awkward as Brüno goes about setting the mood, lighting candles, turning on music, and dancing. It's hard to tell if Paul was even paying attention up to that point, but one thing's for sure, he certainly noticed when Brüno's pants came down.

While those ambushes did work, others just didn't work at all, such as going hunting with three men while Brüno calls them the "Sex and the City" girls. There are also several sequences in which he is trying to "cure" his homosexuality by talking to priests who are supposedly helpful in that area that never really produce any laughs. For the parts that weren't getting any laughs, the best thing to do was to guess whether or not that part was staged or not, some parts being harder than others (Did those parents really want their child up on a cross or dressing up as a Nazi?)

The main thing to take away from "Brüno" is that it shows that Sacha Baron Cohen is getting slightly better with his "comedy." He goes from zero laughs in "Borat" to getting at least a few in "Brüno," which is at least a step in the right direction. Perhaps the next character film he chooses to do will be another step in the right direction. Who knows, perhaps it will be the laugh-riot that he's been working towards. 2/4 stars.
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