Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno is an outrageously funny mockumentary on par with his last crazy character, Borat, which ramps the shocking humor and scathing social commentary to almost unbelievable levels. In 2006, Cohen scored laughs under the guise of a blunt, politically incorrect foreigner, but as Bruno, the openly gay Austrian fashionista, he wields a sharpened, mean-spirited wit necessary for defending himself against the more outed hatred.
Cohen uses the same guerrilla tactics to strike devastating, embarrassing bitch slaps to unsuspecting targets spliced with scandalous sketches and occasionally forced bits. The rude, crude gags will be instantly offensive to some, especially those who are unaware of what they’re getting into or might have been appalled by the fully-nude wrestling match between Borat and his overweight producer.
It’s hilariously indecent and with a relatively lenient R-rating, the only limitations to the onslaught of outrageous was Cohen’s own hesitation to put himself in further physical danger. The flamboyant character willing to say and do anything shows some logical trepidation when dealing with a known terrorist, three redneck hunters with loaded rifles, or an arena packed with drunken Alabamians. Luckily after escaping each alarming stunt, Bruno sashays back to push the uncomfortable boiling pot until the anger spills over again.
But before audiences can squirm in those moments, they must emerge from a gauntlet of full frontal nudity and simulated sex. A hotel romp with his pint-sized lover begins the alienation early, but a focus group for his proposed TV pilot caused as many huffy walk outs in my theater as exits from the random sample on screen. In perfect irony of comedy, the same type of homophobes being poked at in the film are shaking their heads in disgust re-watching the scenes, which serves as an added bonus for everyone else already laughing at the expense of others.
On the surface, Cohen brilliantly satirizes homophobia in America, uncovering varying forms of intolerance from both genders. However, at times the film’s scope broadens to mock a Hollywood industry obsessed with fame and the sexually repressed nation that harbors its vanity parade. Perhaps that’s why the sprawling comedy is sometimes hit or miss.
A flimsy story about his fall from grace in Austria brings the fashion icon to Los Angeles in hopes of another chance at stardom. The premise allows the skits to flit off in random directions and pounce on a variety of subjects. Bruno wants to be like all the other celebrities so he takes up a juicy political cause or adopts — well, swaps for an iPod — a baby (or in this case a “gayby”). The preen queen even makes a futile, funny attempt to become straight, “like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kevin Spacey…”
Bruno inappropriately touches the naughty spots in social struggles like gay marriage, adoption, and the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy of the military, but by then the widdled-down audience is simply laughing collectively with the film about the absurdity of these current political stances. Anyone willing to purchase a ticket and stick around is open-minded enough to find the humor in each of those topics and liberated enough to enjoy the rest of the gut-busting gags. For everyone else still unsure whether you’d enjoy it, I recommend you skip this one. You won’t like being the less than fabulous butt of many laughs.
3.5 out of 5.