Back in 2006 Borat stormed cinemas with balls-in-face humour and cringe-inducing set ups. Now Baron Cohen pulls out his final character from the original trio, Austrian TV presenter Bruno, for another foray into the world of duping Americans for laughs. Bruno hungers for fame, loves fashion and, it’s fair to say, is reasonably homosexual. The film sees him head to LA with the dream of becoming famous, trying anything and everything to realise his dream.
At an anorexic 1 hour 20 mins, Bruno ploughs through scenarios and jokes like they’re going out of fashion. Shining moments include interviewing shameful parents for their babies to be included in a photo shoot (“are they comfortable with wasps, bees and hornets?”), baffling tough guys in an army camp and appearing on a talk show with his adoptive child. The best gags have mostly been splashed on the trailers, but will still elicit laughs.
But you’re more likely to do those gasping laughs, the ones you do when you’ve just seen something shocking but you can’t help laughing anyway. You know, like when children fall over. Take the man wrestling scene from Borat and amplify it tenfold, and you’re still not close to some of the chaos that Bruno spurts on screen. He certainly goes for the shock factor, but in my book “funny” outweighs “shock” for entertainment value, and unfortunately Bruno gets it the wrong way round.
Bruno also loses the original gist of the character – a device to expose the vacuous nature of the fashion world – and goes for the homophobic instead. Trouble is, there’s using a gay character to highlight the still apparent homophobia of certain areas of America, and then there’s taking your pants off and attempting to kiss a man in order to make him get up and run off, angrily complaining about the gay guy who just tried to kiss you. That’s not exposing homophobia, that’s exposing people who object to being sexually assaulted. Hilarious!
It’s a shame, as Baron Cohen has created a sympathetic chap, flawed but still likeable, and he yet again demonstrates his spectacular ability for character acting. Faced with a crowd of Americans baying for his blood on more than one occasion, Cohen never breaks face. You’d have to have some mega balls to do that. And Cohen’s not afraid to show them…
If the funnier scenes were beefed up and there was less reliance on staged moments aimed purely to shock, Bruno would have matched Borat for a comedy treat. As it is, Bruno feels too quick with not enough material or a clear focus to warrant a film. Although it gains point for having Paula Abdul sit on a Mexican. One to wait for DVD, Bruno slides to a CF-1. Nicht so gut.