isn't very good. I laughed a couple of times, but there's a
lot of shit I laugh at that isn't very good. Like The Weather
Channel. Give me a carton of expired Robitussin and six hours
with storm warnings and I guarantee I'll piss my pants and fall
on the shag carpet in tears. You try explaining to somebody
later what was so funny about seeing a poor family in Ohio sitting
on the roof of their flooded home, though.
Bruno is the
follow-up--and essentially the exact same idea executed shittier--as
Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen's big hit from three years ago.
In that movie, and this one, Cohen assumes the role of a dimwitted
stereotype in hopes of exposing ignorance and bigotry America.
Here, he mostly fails. And when he succeeds, it's of targets
that are way to easy to even count as a score.
Cohen's Bruno character
is a gay Austrian fashionista. He's not likeable. In fact, he's
a self-absorbed asshole. This is meant to be funny, but it's
also fucking obvious and one-note. There is nothing about Bruno
to distinguish him from a bad SNL skit except there's no NBC
censor to keep it from being tasteless. So he can show his balls,
say dirty words and blur out simulated anal sex in hopes of
tricking us into thinking this is daring. Hell, I can see real
anal sex for $7 every 15 minutes on my computer and it ain't
daring at all. It is sort of gross, though. What makes Bruno
especially painful to hang out with is that while we're supposed
to laugh at how mean he is one moment and then give a shit when
his feelings get hurt. It's a really crappy and indulgent way
to write a character: demand the audience to react how you want
plot is just a clothesline to hang gags on. Still, if you want
to pretend you aren't just doing a bunch of sketches, why not
put some fucking effort into the story and the character who
drives it? While it still wouldn't have been good, the movie
would have improved if they admitted it was just sketches, not
a story. The ostensible story is Cohen's gay Austrian has come
to America to become famous. He attempts fame many different
ways, each a rather obvious riff on something that's happened
and already been mocked ad nauseum on late night TV. He adopts
a black child like Madonna, he visits a minister who converts
gays into straights, he interviews famous people and he goes
to a psychic.
He interviews Paula
Abdul (really? That's the best they could do-make fun of Paula
Abdul? Isn't that about as hard as hunting legless goats in
an empty swimming pool?). When she arrives he has no furniture
and has his Mexican gardeners assume the positions of benches
to be sat on. Abdul does, but is quite uncomfortable and leaves
quickly. There is no punchline, no funny bits, and the scene
ends after a few awkward minutes with Abdul being sped away
by a publicist. Well, where's the fucking surprise? How else
could this have possibly ended? Who is this supposed to make
look bad? Actually, the skit reminded me of those smug, fake
anti-smoking ads where some supposedly hip teenagers do some
street performance to illustrate Big Tobacco's bad behavior,
and a bunch of fake innocent bystanders look appalled. Same
smugness with same easiness of a foregone conclusion.
When talking to an
anti-gay minister, Cohen gets off precisely one funny line,
about the man's blow-job lips. Otherwise the minister is a very
patient man who truly believes he's doing God's work and trying
quite hard at it. He doesn't sound stupid or mean. And Cohen
never does or says anything insightful or revealing about trying
to convert gays. He just sits there, for far too long, thinking
the premise itself is hilarious. Cohen (not Bruno) looks worst
in the scene, for first not revealing anything and second for
failing to get an unlikeable subject to laugh at.
In three other scenes,
Cohen comes off worst. He goes hunting with three good old boys,
and then hits on them in a tent, naked. The men have a hell
of a lot of restraint, yet are supposed to be the butt of the
joke. Tee hee, country bumpkins are afraid of homos!
Only, they sure don't seem to be. They just appear to be worn
out by the Bruno character's obnoxiousness and aggressiveness.
They don't call him names, don't hurt him, just tell him to
get out of their tent when he tries to snuggle naked at four
a.m. Man, is that gag weak, and boy does Cohen come across as
trying too fucking hard to stereotype the hunters.
Cohen goes to a swinger's
party and again acts outrageous in hopes of provoking a reaction.
I don't know what he's trying to say about swingers, but I know
the obvious things that he fails to. I sympathize with the victims
for behaving very kindly and for him trying to make them a punchline
in exchange. Again, they don't look bad, he does. Finally, Cohen
comes on to libertarian nutjob and closet-racist Ron Paul in
a hotel room. In the process, he makes that wacko seem reasonable,
and he reveals nothing about how fucking out there that guy
is. That seems like it wouldn't be hard to do, yet he fails.
The problem is all of these skits, and much of the movie, have
no satire. They just have Cohen behaving badly and people responding
not quite as stereotypically as I'm sure Cohen hoped. He fails
to prick any overstuffed targets, or reveal any truths about
some hidden hatred. We just see more and more of Cohen acting
obnoxious without result.
Bruno is 82
minutes and it's too long at that. Where Borat was stuffed
with funny gags and it felt like there was a lot more where
it came from, this one is stretched thin. I got the sense they
had to really scrape the cutting room floor to get it to feature
length. The skits I described are overlong and go on past what
they're worth. The monotony of Cohen's Bruno gets reinforced
skit after skit. He's not offensive, as I'm sure he hopes, he's
Bruno is just
weak. It's not funny, it's not revealing and it's far from clever.
I don't know that there is a good movie in this character. He's
not interesting enough. If he wants to expose bigotry or the
cruelty of others, he probably ought to try harder and find
better targets. Two Fingers.
to tell Filthy Something?