Directed by: Larry Charles
Premise: A pseudo-documentary about a gay Austrian fashionista who is obsessed with becoming a celebrity. The film follows Brüno (Sacha Baron Cohen) across the world as he attempts to launch his star.
What Works: Brüno follows in the same format as Borat, the previous collaboration by director Larry Charles and actor Sacha Baron Cohen, as a pseudo-documentary that follows its title character through various scenarios, some of them scripted but most done extemporaneously as pranks. As a satire, Brüno is a big step up from Borat. The film is much more on message and much more consistent in its attempt to ridicule homophobia and superficial obsessions with fame. There are a few scenes that really resonate such as Brüno’s reconciliation with his former lover at an ultimate fighting cage match and his disastrous interview with a Los Angeles public relations firm.
What Doesn’t: The trouble with Brüno is that the film is not very funny. It plays a bit like an elongated version of the “Sprockets” skit from Saturday Night Live and like most Saturday Night Live skits adapted to feature length, the concept wears thin very quickly. A lot of the pranks, like Brüno’s attempt to make a sex tape with Republican congressman Ron Paul, don’t have enough pay off and the interviews with anti-gay Christians play like re-runs of similar segments from The Daily Show. To compensate, Brüno goes for audacity by constantly flashing male genitalia at the audience, real and simulated, but that too loses its shock value very quickly, especially since barriers on male nudity have already been largely broken down by other and better comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Hangover. Perhaps the weakest link of Brüno is its title character. Although Borat said and did some awful things in his film, that character was endearing and even a little lovable. Brüno is so superficial that he is more of a caricature than a character and much more difficult to watch for more than fifteen minutes. As a result, the film runs out of gas early on and never recovers.
Bottom Line: Brüno has some individual scenes that are very strong but the film as a whole is a let down. The scenes are too disconnected and it plays like an R-rated version of Candid Camera or Jackass.
Episode: #247 (July 19, 2009)