We’re done with Sacha Baron Cohen’s most famous creations, cinematically speaking. When Da Ali G show hit it was a sensation in England, and a cult hit in America, and ignitied some stateside interest in this great prankster. On the show he played the daft Ali G (which was turned into the film Ali G Indahouse, released DTV stateside), the foreigner Borat (which was turned into runaway hit Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) and the gay German fashionista Bruno (turned into Bruno). With the huge success of Borat, the possibility of Cohen being able to prank people got smaller and smaller, and so Bruno is the last shot until Cohen turns himself into something new, or hides for a while. My review of Bruno after the jump.
It was easier to laugh at Borat. As an outsider, his comic role allowed one to laugh at him for his inappropriateness, laugh at his victims for going along with him, and laugh with him for being an outsider. Bruno, on the other hand, is a homosexual. That doesn’t endear as much empathy for many, and the discomfort he often raises is in both his victims and the audience. As such Bruno is a way more political movie than Borat, which definitely showcased how certain American (mostly) Southerners react to a person like Borat and either play along or agree with his racism towards Jewish people. Bruno is just as obnoxious, but he gets in your face with his homosexuality. He’s equally not very talented.
The film follows him as he moves to Los Angeles to become a star after his fashion TV show is cancelled. One of the biggest problems with the film is that the structure of the movie is very similar to that of Borat‘s. There’s some great humiliation of Paula Abdul, but then the film finds Bruno going to the Middle East, where you swear to God Cohen is about to be killed. He finds his groove though when he decides to go straight and hang out in the south. These jokes are the most familiar of the bunch (he’s done this before), but they’re the ones that hit it out of the park as well.
With Bruno, the pleasures not just with the comedy of the film – which is excellent – but also the added element that Cohen obviously took things to the next level, and when he tells a member of Al-Qaeda that Osama Bin Laden looks like a dirty wizard, and the terrorist then tells Cohen he should leave immediately, you know that it’s a dangerous situation. There’s also the campers that Cohen surprises naked, who obviously have guns, and then there’s a wrestling stunt where a metal chair is hurled on stage and seems to miss Cohen’s head by mere inches. Say what you will for the comedy, but the bravery on display is peerless, and Cohen takes the danger much further than he did in Borat.
Unfortunately, this also can’t have the kick of Borat, that shock of surprise, and though the bits are excellent, they mostly revel in some audience’s discomfort with homosexuals. Since this is still a politicized issue, heavily in some states, it’s an honest-to-god comedy with some teeth. And if you feel discomfort at seeing male genitalia, then there’s a joke in the film that might have you turning off the film in the first thirty minutes. None of this fazed me all that much, though the audacity on display is breathtaking. As a comic stunt, here it’s fair to say the stunt aspects may overshadow the comedy, but Cohen creates a bold critical work, and perhaps – as Michael O’Donoghue liked to say “laughter is the lowest form of comedy.”
Universal presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS- HD 5.1. As a recent film it was shot on HD video, and the quality is perfect. The film also comes with a digital copy. The film is 82 minutes long, but there’s an enhanced commentary track where director Larry Charles and Cohen stop the film in some instances to expand on their process, so it runs 108 minutes. There are two alternate scenes (6 min.), with Pete Rose doing the same bit as Abdul, and different famous politicians getting the Bruno treatment. There are eleven deleted scenes (41 min.) including the missing Latoya Jackson sequence that was removed from the film prior to release due to Michael Jackson’s passing. There are also eight extended sequences (23 min.), and the set wraps up with an interview with Lloyd Robinson (6 min.) who is Bruno’s agent in the film, albeit without knowing it was Cohen. There’s also some on-line content.