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Brüno: Movie Review

Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Directed by:
Larry Charles
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten

Released by: Universal Pictures

In Short: Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest satire feels been-there-done-that, yet meaner, after Borat.
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Sacha Baron Cohen's Latest Film Amuses,
Offends and Frustrates

You have to give Sacha Baron Cohen credit for inventiveness. Within the first ten minutes of his satire Brüno, the title character demonstrates a cracked Kama Sutra’s worth of gay sex involving, among other things, a bicycle, a Champagne bottle, a pygmy and a vacuum cleaner. After that shock to the system, it gets, um, even wilder.

If you’ve seen Borat, Baron Cohen’s first foray in big screen stardom, you’re familiar with his gonzo comedy: an outlandish character from a faraway land (in Brüno’s case, a gay Austrian fashionista) creates scream-out-loud funny and cringe-inducing moments out of real-life encounters across the U.S. But just as Hot Shots never equaled Airplane, Brüno feels been-there-done-that after Borat, and the utterly self-absorbed Brüno is far less fun to be around.

Sacha Baron Cohen in brüno Sacha Baron Cohen in brüno

Brüno arrives in Hollywood to become a celebrity interviewer, but when a test audience rates his pilot show "worse than cancer," he sets on that most Hollywood of pursuits, being famous for nothing in particular. The trail of excess includes anal bleaching, cage fighting, Hitler worship, phallic gymnastics (how did this film get an R rating, exactly?), adopting an African baby with the "traditional name" O.J., ex-gay ministries, and an attempt at seducing former presidential candidate Ron Paul into appearing in a sex video.

Much of brüno is did-he-really-just-do-that? hilarious, but there's one key difference from Borat: beneath Borat’s apparent idiocy was the skill of all good interviewers, smiling while allowing their subjects to dig their own holes. Brüno, meanwhile, is so over the top that he becomes a straw man, and you feel for his subjects. OK, well, not the parents willing to subject their toddlers to liposuction for a modeling job.

Plus, when Baron Cohen, who is Jewish, lampooned Jews in Borat, it was with a wink. But when Baron Cohen, who is straight, lampoons gays in Brüno, it’s not unlike a minstrel show. One wonders whether it’s the audience or the filmmakers who are actually having the last laugh.

Reviewed by Andrew Bender

(Updated: 07/10/09 DN)

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