Bruno (Lonely Devil Review)
I am giving the full frontal, Devil’s Advocate review of Bruno. That’s right, I’m putting what I really thought at the front of the review and then doing the full DA critique to follow. Why…what did you think I meant?
Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno subverts and incapacitates, while forcing a visceral reaction from the audience in the form of cringing, wincing, and recoiling. Try as you might, it is impossible to look away or to escape the gravitational force of this movie. It is a phenomenally funny film, with amazingly concise social overtones (more so than Borat even). The over the top, “freak out” scenes are there, but they don’t overwhelm the film. In fact they give the audience what has to be the “heart and soul” of films like Borat or Bruno: the reactions of the unsuspecting.
I could go on and on about the merits of this film, but that isn’t really my job this week, so I’ll end by saying that Bruno is by far the funniest film I’ve seen this year. In a word, it was FABULOUS! I give it a solid (if you count fractions as being solid) 4 1/2 pitchforks out of 5.
As I stated above, the response or backlash that Cohen elicits from his unsuspecting victims (that word might be a bit harsh…maybe plaintiffs works better) is a sizable part of what makes the gag, or even the overall picture, funny. Allen Funt pioneered this concept back in the forties and fifties, and it made him a legend in the industry. Cohen, along with co-conspirator Larry Charles, took Funt’s concept to the next level with Borat and then sought to repeat the success with Bruno. However, in Bruno we get more structure and story (never thought I’d see the day when I would complain about too much story) built into the framework, which allows for a limited amount of those interactions to take place. The coveted banter and pranking are still present, but are cut short in favor of drawing out romantic subplots and other banal conflicts.
Due to the “mockumentary” style of the film, it is meant to be more grounded in reality than other comedies might. It’s because of this design that it has become easy to see the punchline of the joke, well before the joke begins. Once you saw Congressman Ron Paul being interviewed by Bruno, it was blatantly obvious where it was heading. There are still plenty of surprises, but the setup for each gag seems to presage the outcome well before it’s meant to be revealed. Does it detract from the humor? Certainly not. For audience members like myself that enjoy guessing the outcome, it does distract a bit, though.
[Switching On Passive Voice] Lastly, I can see how people might view the film as seeking to alienate certain audiences. Obviously it isn’t intended for children, the elderly, or homophobes, but there is also that pocket of people located within society that are comfortable with or tolerant enough of homosexual culture to view a film about a gay, Austrian fashionista, but are still too squeamish for the more graphically depicted aspects of the lifestyle. And it might be hypocritical, since said people [Passive Voice Still Engaged] would have no problem viewing heterosexual partners engaging in similar acts, but become unsettled when it’s two men. However, Bruno does play out these scenarios with a bit of extremist zeal (like perhaps using a stationary bike as a sex toy). It is in that vein that I can see people, who are capable of enjoying films with homosexual lead characters and storylines, feeling out of place once the dust settles. [Disengaging Passive Voice]
Not a bad film by any means, but it is far from perfect. Borat was a success that would have to be hard to replicate, which, to me, explains why there is so much filler in this movie. Funny, but predictable, and a bit extreme at times. Regardless, I would recommend seeing it, but beware that it is not for the feint of heart. As Devil’s Advocate I give the film 3 out of 5 pitchforks.