Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bruno (***1/2)

Bruno. 82 mins. R. Directed by Larry Charles. Written by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Dan Mazer & Jeff Schaffer. Starring Sacha Baron Cohen and Gustaf Hammarstan.

I don't know how much longer the fearlessly funny Sacha Baron Cohen can pull things like this off, and I'm not quite sure whether it's as good as Borat (only time will tell), but Bruno is one funny flick. The movie is a comedy bulldozer that nearly pummels its audience into submission, and shows you things you have never seen before, and may never want to see again. Bruno takes the "R" rating and body slams it to the ground, climbs on top of it, and has its way with it, pushing the rating so far past what it's typically used for that it no longer has any meaning whatsoever. The set-up for Bruno takes the same path of least resistance as Borat, merely serving as a vehicle for a series of interviews and sequences that tackle, head-on, everything from homophobia to scary stage parents to celebrity obnoxiousness. Some work, some don't, but the majority stick and there are at least 3 or 4 scenes that are instant classics of the genre. My favorite is probably Bruno's attempt at a celebrity, Entertainment Tonight-type show, which is screened for a test group comprised of middle-aged, middle-of-the road Americans. The look on those peoples' faces is priceless and their horror is undeniably real. Cohen seems to revel on letting us, his audience, in on the joke while also challenging us and making us cringe and feel about as uncomfortable as his subjects on screen. Half the audience members are going to love it, and half are going to despise it, but there's no denying Cohen's talent at provocation and improvisation. Will it hold up on a second viewing? I don't know, but I will say this: my knee is a bit sore today from having hit it so repeatedly hard in fits of laughter. Bruno never overstays its welcome (the movie is only 82 mins.) and the laughs are scattered evenly throughout. A must see, for those brave enough.

- John


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