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“Brüno”- (Chris)
Reviewer:
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Universal Studios
Genre:
Comedy
Release Date:
11/17/09
Special Features:

Scene-specific audio commentary / interview / deleted and alternate scenes

Review:

Sacha Baron Cohen is more of a daredevil than Evel Kenivel and Phillip Petite combined. He may not have jumped across a line of buses with a motorcycle or walked on a tightrope across the World Trade Center, but he has willingly subjected himself to dangerous people in equally dangerous situations in order to make mockumentaries. He incurs the wrath of those in positions of power. He’s willing to make everyone hate him just for the sake of getting us to laugh. ***

In “Borat,” while in disguise as the title character, he sang a fake Kazakhstani national anthem to the tune of our national anthem at a rodeo full of uber-conservative Virginians. He spewed sexist banter to a group of feminists and anti-Semitic banter to his camcorder while staying at a bed and breakfast owned by a Jewish couple. This man knows no fear. ***

He proves that once again with “Brüno,” a mockumentary from director Larry Charles. This movie is just plain funny. Damn funny. It’s audacious at a level I’ve rarely seen, and truth be told, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of that kind of filmmaking. Instead of a Kazakhstani journalist, Cohen plays a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista who makes it his mission to become more famous than Hitler. If that alone doesn’t make you laugh, do yourself a tremendous favor and forget you’ve ever heard of Cohen. You must be in on the joke. ***

That shouldn’t be too hard for most audiences, I suspect. What he says and does as the title character is so over the top that it’s difficult to not see it as one big joke. It seemed, however, pretty difficult for the people involved with the film, most of whom were ordinary citizens that had no idea who Cohen was or what he was doing. I initially had a hard time getting that through my head, considering how well known he is. Then again, the people he interacts with would probably not go out of their way to see a film like “Borat.” ***

After success eludes him in his native Austria, the scantily-dressed Brüno decides to try his luck in Los Angeles. But it immediately proves more difficult than he thought it would be, prompting him to travel from city to city with his head-over-heels assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten). He tries acting. He tries pitching a celebrity interview program. He tries getting involved in a just cause. He tries swapping an African baby for an iPod. He even tries going into therapy to cure him of his homosexuality, because, obviously, all the cool celebrities are straight. ***

At one point, he tries to prove he loves women by competing in an Arkansas cage fight, attended by a rowdy, beer-swilling group of homophobic rednecks with murderous glints in their eyes. Were there no cameras there, were there no film crew, I’m not convinced Cohen would be alive today. ***

What I love about Cohen is that he’s more than a comedian. He may in fact be one of the most effective social critics who ever walked. As Borat and Brüno, two manifestly ignorant characters, he exposes the real ignorance and stupidity that still plague humanity. In “Brüno,” Cohen and Charles have a lot of fun at the expense of various anti-gay groups. Whatever your beliefs, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for Jody Trautwein, a Points of Grace Ministries youth pastor who genuinely believed he was curing a gay man. I don’t feel quite as sorry for the picketers of God Hates Fags, who had to endure the sight of Cohen and Hammarsten strapped together while wearing super erotic gear. ***

But there are other people Cohen targets besides homophobes. Brüno pays a visit to a photography studio, where hopeful stage parents pretty up their toddlers for a photo shoot. A brief montage makes it perfectly clear that many of these people should not have had children in the first place. ***

Later on, he travels to the Middle East and moderates a discussion between Israeli Yossi Alpher and a Palestinian man; the scene plays mostly for laughs, but even as Brüno, Cohen is actually addressing a serious issue, and God help us all, he was making sense. By acting foolishly, he sheds light on just how foolish everyone else in the Middle East is behaving, especially in this terrible situation. If only they saw it the same way. ***

And that’s what “Brüno” is all about: Finding the humor in mindsets that are anything but humorous. So I guess it’s good that Cohen is so willing to put himself on the line, because goodness knows laughter can often expose ignorance much more effectively than dramatic commentaries. ***

Special Features:

In addition to scene-specific audio commentary by star Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles, this DVD includes over an hour of deleted, extended, and alternate scenes not shown in theaters. Also included is an interview with Brüno’s real Hollywood agent, Lloyd Robinson. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen format and features Dolby 5.1 Digital sound.

Final Words:

Ninety years ago, we had Charlie Chaplin. Fifty years ago, we had Lucille Ball. Today, we have Sacha Baron Cohen. Yes, I truly believe he will someday be regarded as one of funniest people who ever lived. The funniest and the most insightful. The funniest, the most insightful, and the craziest. No one should be this blasé about their own well being ... except when we find ourselves laughing. And boy, will you laugh during “Brüno,” a movie that’s just plain hilarious. And brilliant.

 

 
 
 
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